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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data 

Ricoeur, Paul. 
Lectures on ideology and Utopia. 

Bibliography: p. 
Includes index, 
i. Ideology — History. 2. Utopias — History. 
I. Taylor, George, H., 1951- II. Title. 

B823.3.R48 1986 320.5 86-6813 

ISBN 0-231-06048-3 

Columbia University Press 
New York Guildford, Surrey 
Copyright © 1986 Columbia University Press 
All rights reserved 

Printed in the United States of America 

Book design by Ken Venezio 


Editor's Acknowledgments vii 

Editor's Introduction ix 

1. Introductory Lecture i 

Part I. Ideology 

2. Marx: The Critique of Hegel and the Manuscripts 21 

3. Marx: The "First Manuscript" 35 

4. Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 49 

5. Marx: The German Ideology (1) 68 

6. Marx: The German Ideology (2) 87 

7. Althusser (1) 103 

8. Althusser (2) 124 

9. Althusser (3) 142 

10. Mannheim 159 

11. Weber (1) 181 

12. Weber (2) 198 

13. Habermas (1) 216 

14. Habermas (2) 232 

15. Geertz 254 


Part II. Utopia 

6. Mannheim 269 

7. Saint-Simon 285 

8. Fourier 301 

Notes 315 

Bibliography 329 

Index 339 

Editor's Acknowledgments 

Preparation of Paul Ricoeur's lectures for publication has been assisted by 
a number of people, all of whom deserve recognition and thanks for their 
contributions. Though he had no idea at the time that his efforts would 
result in the lectures' publication, Paul Casey was the person who taped 
all the lectures and stored them for reserved access at Harper Library of 
the University of Chicago. Jim Burris compiled an abridged transcript 
based on his own taping of the lectures ; those of us who heard the lectures 
in their original presentation knew they were important, but Jim's tran- 
scriptions made this evident in much greater detail. In a period when my 
own time constraints were great, Judy Vaughan gave freely from her own 
demanding schedule to help me retape the original reel-to-reel tapes onto 
cassettes, which made the transcription of the lectures a much easier task. 
Joel Guerra, John Monroe, and Rahner James all provided key technical 
assistance. Diane Luneau helped me gain access to some important sec- 
ondary bibliographic material. David Pellauer located some otherwise in- 
accessible Ricoeur material and made helpful suggestions on the bibliog- 
raphy and my introduction. Candice Hoke's editorial acumen was, as ever, 
highly significant, especially in the early and late stages of my labors. I 
cannot imagine having a better editor or closer friend. Finally my thanks 
go to Paul Ricoeur, both for allowing me to undertake this project and for 
so generously giving of his time in order to review it. I greatly value the 
opportunity I have had to work with him. 

Editor's Introduction 

The breadth of Paul Ricoeur's work is unsurpassed by perhaps any other 
thinker's in the world today. Although he is best known for his writings 
on religious symbolism (The Symbolism of Evil) and psychoanalysis (Freud 
and Philosophy), 1 his work in fact encompasses a wide range of diverse — 
and often seemingly disparate — spheres of discourse: theories of history, 
analytic philosophy of language, ethics, theories of action, structuralism, 
critical theory, theology, semiotics, psychology, biblical studies, literary 
theory, and phenomenology and hermeneutics. Readers can find keeping 
up with Ricoeur a difficult task as he ventures onto so many different kinds 
of terrain. Unusual as Ricoeur's breadth may be, though, perhaps more 
surprising is what is missing from his list of themes. Ricoeur is very much 
engaged — personally and professionally — in the social, cultural, and po- 
litical life of his day, and yet we find in his work no sustained examination 
of this subject matter. Two volumes of collected essays, History and Truth 
and Political and Social Essays, do present Ricoeur's views on a number 
of social and political topics, but these essays are specific responses to 
particular times, circumstances, and occasions. 2 We have missed from 
Ricoeur an extended analysis of the implications of his hermeneutic ap- 
proach for social and political theory. Publication of the present volume, 
Ricoeur's lectures on ideology and Utopia, should go far toward addressing 
this need. 3 

These lectures were first delivered at the University of Chicago in the 
fall of 1975, and the passage of time has little reduced their importance. 
They are of significant interest because of the figures they discuss, the 
themes they address, and the contributions they make to Ricoeur's larger 
corpus. Ricoeur offers in these lectures his first detailed analysis of Karl 


Editor's Introduction 

Mannheim, Max Weber, and Clifford Geertz, and he expands his published 
discussions of Louis Althusser and Jiirgen Habermas. 4 Of particular inter- 
est is Ricoeur's treatment of Marx, who is the subject of five of the eighteen 
lectures. Ricoeur has long named Marx, Freud, and Nietzsche the three 
great "masters of suspicion," 5 but while he is well known for his interpre- 
tation of Freud, the present volume marks Ricoeur's first systematic anal- 
ysis of Marx. 6 

As for the themes of the lectures — ideology and Utopia — Ricoeur is the 
first since Mannheim to attempt to discuss them within one conceptual 
framework. Typically, ideology has been a topic for sociology or political 
science, Utopia for history or literature. Ricoeur's juxtaposition of ideology 
and Utopia better defines and demarcates the two, and markedly differen- 
tiates them from earlier conceptual formulations, where ideology has been 
contrasted to both reality and science, and Utopia has been viewed as a 
mere dream, a wishful fancy. 

The lectures are also of interest because of their relation to Ricoeur's 
writings as a whole. Ricoeur speaks to this directly in the lectures, and I 
will approach the themes of ideology and Utopia by discussing Ricoeur's 
larger work first. After then discussing the specific themes of the lectures, 
I will move back from part to whole and situate Ricoeur's analysis of 
ideology and Utopia in relation particularly to his writings on imagination 
and metaphor. 

ricoeur's philosophic project 

When reading Ricoeur, it is easy to become immersed in the subject at 
hand, whether it be French historiography, the semantics of action, or 
Freud's topological model. It is easy to lose sight of the fact that these 
subjects are often part of larger projects. Sometimes Ricoeur may mention 
at the end of an essay that he has only now reached — and will stop at — 
the horizon of his inquiry; at other points he talks about the "detour" — a 
favorite term — that is the focus of an entire essay, one that allows him in 
the final paragraph to attain by an indirect route some desired end. A 
prominent example is Ricoeur's book on Freud, which is ultimately not so 
much about Freud as about the nature of interpretation. 7 These overarch- 
ing projects are not always present or easily defined, but despite the ap- 
parent diffuseness of Ricoeur's corpus, they do persist and may be said to 

Editor's Introduction 


be finally not religious, psychological, religious, or linguistic but philo- 
sophic in nature. 8 

This point holds equally as well for Ricoeur's lectures on ideology and 
utopia as it does for a work like Freud and Philosophy. Readers who seek 
detailed analyses of specific ideologies or Utopias will be disappointed. 9 For 
the most part, Ricoeur discusses ideology and Utopia not as phenomena 
but as concepts. Ricoeur repeatedly states, for example, that he is not 
interested in whether Marx was accurate historically about the role of 
industry at the beginning of capitalism; his focus is the epistemological 
structure of Marx's work. And Weber is examined not so much for the 
sociological content of his analyses as for his conceptual framework. Yet 
to characterize the lectures as philosophic should not suggest that they are 
remote or inaccessible. They make clear reference to what it means for us 
to be human beings living in a social and political world. Perhaps, then, 
the larger project to which the lectures belong is best characterized not 
simply as philosophic but as a philosophical anthropology. 

What Ricoeur means by philosophical anthropology is not a subcategory 
of a social science discipline, but the study of anthropos — humanity — from 
a philosophical perspective. This inquiry, Ricoeur writes, is "aimed at 
identifying the most enduring features of [our] temporal condition . . . — 
those which are the least vulnerable to the vicissitudes of the modern 
age." 10 In the lectures, Ricoeur uses social and political categories to discuss 
what it means to be human, an issue that concerns both our present and 
our persisting possibilities. 


Most of the lectures are on ideology; Utopia is the focus of only the final 
three, although it surfaces as a topic throughout. Ricoeur begins his analysis 
of ideology with a discussion of Marx. Marx's concept of ideology has been 
the dominant paradigm in the West, and it is the model to which the rest 
of the thinkers discussed — and Ricoeur's own proposals — respond. As is 
typical of his presentation in several of the lectures, Ricoeur does not begin 
immediately with Marx's concept of ideology. Instead, he spends three of 
the five Marx lectures examining the developments in Marx that lead up 
to this concept. Only when the basis for Marx's conceptual framework is 
well delineated does Ricoeur address Marx's concept of ideology itself. For 
readers who find it difficult to understand how the "detours" comprising 


Editor's Introduction 

the first Marx lectures relate to ideology, Ricoeur supplies several signposts 
along the way. For Ricoeur, this careful and patient building of Marx's 
conceptual framework is the best basis upon which to analyze Marx's 
concept of ideology. 

The path of Marx's early works, Ricoeur suggests, is a progression 
toward characterizing what is "the real." Determination of the nature of 
reality affects the concept of ideology, because Marx ultimately defines 
ideology as what is not real. The contrast in Marx is between ideology and 
reality, and not, as in later Marxism, between ideology and science. Ricoeur 
claims that The German Ideology is the culmination of Marx's progression 
on this topic." In this work, Ricoeur says, Marx comes to define reality 
by praxis — productive human activity — and thus ideology by its opposi- 
tion to praxis. The Gerrnan ideology Marx opposes is that of Feuerbach 
and the other Young Hegelians. Feuerbach's own methodological inversion 
had recaptured as human activity what previously had been viewed as the 
power of the divine, but this human activity was still a product of con- 
sciousness or thought. Marx himself undertakes another reversal — another 
methodological inversion — to establish that the real source of human ac- 
tivity is praxis and not consciousness. The Young Hegelians — and Marx 
himself as late as the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts — had treated 
consciousness as the center of human activity and as such the reference 
point for all existence, but in The German Ideology Marx criticizes the 
idealistic overtones of this emphasis and replaces consciousness with the 
living individual. Ricoeur argues that Marx's position is a challenge not 
only to the idealism of the Young Hegelians but also to another extreme 
prominent in later Marxism that sees anonymous structural forces — class, 
capital — as the active agents in history. While a structuralist reading of 
The German Ideology is possible, Ricoeur acknowledges, a more compre- 
hensive interpretation discerns that Marx mediates between objectivist and 
idealist perspectives. Marx's great discovery in The German Ideology, says 
Ricoeur, is the complex notion of individuals in their material conditions. 
Real individuals and material conditions are conjoined. 12 

Marx's concept of ideology calls into question the autonomy granted to 
the products of consciousness. Ricoeur quotes Marx at length on how 
ideology is the imaginary, the "reflexes" and "echoes" of the real process 
of life. For Marx ideology is distortion. It is from this characterization of 
ideology as distortion that the rest of the lectures proceed. Ricoeur calls 
his approach in the lectures a genetic phenomenology, "a regressive analysis 

Editor's Introduction 


of meaning," "an attempt to dig under the surface of the apparent meaning 
to the more fundamental meanings" (lecture 18). Marx's concept of ide- 
ology as distortion defines ideology at a surface level ; the remaining lectures 
uncover the concept's meaning at progressively deeper levels. For Ricoeur, 
the problem of ideology is finally not a choice between false and true but 
a deliberation over the relation between representation (Vorstellung) and 
praxis (lecture 5). Distortion is the proper characterization of ideology 
when representations claim autonomy, but the concept of ideology is pred- 
icated more basically on its simply being representation. Thus, distortion 
is one of the levels within this model and not, as Marx would have it, the 
model for ideology itself. The lectures that follow attempt to determine 
whether the relationship between representation and practice is one of 
opposition or conjunction. Ricoeur argues against Marx for the latter, 
claiming that representation is so basic as to be a constitutive dimension 
of the realm of praxis. The conjunction of ideology and praxis will redefine 
our conceptions of both. 

The implications of this argument become fully evident only at the end 
of the ideology lectures, when Ricoeur discusses Clifford Geertz. But the 
basis for this argument, Ricoeur claims, lies in Marx. At the same point in 
The German Ideology where Marx offers his most trenchant definition of 
ideology as distortion, he also allows that there may be a "language of real 
life" that exists prior to distortion: "The production of ideas, of concep- 
tions, of consciousness, is at first directly interwoven with the material 
activity and the material intercourse of men, the language of real life." 13 
The language of real life, Ricoeur observes, is the discourse of praxis; it is 
not language itself — linguistic representation — but the symbolic structure ■ 
of action. Ricoeur's argument is that the structure of action is inextricably 
symbolic, and that it is only on the basis of this symbolic structure that we 
can understand either the nature of ideology as distortion or the meaning 
of ideology in general. Ricoeur's purpose, then, is not to deny the legitimacy 
of Marx's concept of ideology as distortion but rather to relate it to ideol- 
ogy's other functions. Ricoeur comments: "I am interested ... in the 
range of possibilities preserved by Marx's analysis, a range extending from 
the language of real life to radical distortion. I emphasize that the concept 
of ideology covers this full range" (lecture 5). 

The rest of the lectures pursue this argument in detail, but the basis for 
the analysis lies in Marx's interpretation of ideology as distortion, that is, 
the contrast between things as they appear in ideas and as they really are, 


Editor's Introduction 

between representation and praxis. Before Ricoeur can move to the deeper 
levels of the meaning of ideology, however, he must confront a more recent 
interpretation that still considers it distortion, this time as opposed not to 
reality but to science. Ricoeur finds the best expression of this perspective 
in later Marxism, in particular in the structuralist Marxism of Louis 

Examination of Althusser's work is especially appropriate for Ricoeur, 
because his approach contains the most radical consequences of the changes 
in the conception of ideology from Marx to orthodox Marxism. Ricoeur 
summarizes these changes in three points. First, Althusser stresses the role 
of Marxism as a science. No longer is the methodological model one of 
inversion; a science breaks with what is nonscience, and between the two 
there is fundamental discontinuity. Ideology is described as the nonscien- 
tific or prescientific. 14 Second, this science maintains that reality functions 
on the basis of anonymous, impersonal forces; endorsement of the role of 
human agents is itself ideological. Third, Marxist science asserts that a 
causal relation exists between base or infrastructure (the anonymous forces) 
and superstructure (culture, art, religion, law). This\superstructure is 
ideological. Althusser improves upon the model of his predecessors by 
declaring that the infrastructure has a causal "effectivity" on the superstruc- 
ture, but the superstructure has the capacity to react back on the infrastruc- 
ture. An event is not the product of the base alone but is affected also by 
superstructural elements, and hence "overdetermined." 

Ricoeur's responses to Althusser's opposition of ideology and science set 
the stage for the remaining ideology lectures. Before turning at greater 
length to these later lectures, I will anticipate their importance by briefly 
relating them to Ricoeur's three counterproposals to Althusser's model. 
First, Ricoeur wants to challenge Althusser's paradigm and substitute for 
its opposition of science and ideology the model Ricoeur finds available in 
Marx, a correlation of ideology and praxis. A lecture on Mannheim follows 
the ones on Althusser, and Ricoeur shows there how Mannheim exposes 
the paradox of the opposition between ideology and science. Subsequent 
lectures examine Habermas' proposal that a nonpositivistic science can be 
recovered, if only one based on a practical human interest. Second, Ricoeur 
wants to reject completely the causal model of infrastructure and super- 
structure. He argues that it is meaningless to maintain that something 
economic acts on ideas (the superstructure) in a causal way. The effects of 
economic forces on ideas must be described within a different — a moti- 

Editor's Introduction 


vational — framework. Max Weber is the main figure discussed in the 
development of this model. Finally, Ricoeur wants to replace the emphasis 
on anonymous structural forces as the basis of history with a reemphasis 
on real individuals under definite conditions. Ricoeur maintains that Al- 
thusser conjoins under one heading — anthropological ideology — two dif- 
ferent notions. One is the "ideology of consciousness, which Marx and 
Freud have rightly broken." The second is the individual in his or her 
conditions, a notion that can rightfully be expressed in nonidealist terms. 
The "destiny of anthropology," Ricoeur claims, "is not sealed by that of 
idealism" (lecture 9). Pursuit of the motivational model is one step toward 
solidifying this argument; another is the developing exploration of the 
symbolic structure of action, a theme that surfaces constantly throughout 
the lectures and reaches its culmination in the lecture on Geertz. 

The value of Mannheim for Ricoeur's project lies as much in his failures 
as in his successes. One of Mannheim's real achievements is that he expands 
the concept of ideology to the point where it encompasses even the one 
asserting it. The viewpoint of the absolute onlooker, the one uninvolved 
in the social game, is impossible, says Mannheim. As Ricoeur puts it, "To 
call something ideological is never merely a theoretical judgment but rather 
implies a certain practice and a view on reality that this practice gives to 
us" (lecture 10). Any perspective expressed is in some sense ideological. 
This circularity of ideology is Mannheim's paradox, something that he 
tried to escape by claiming that an evaluative standpoint could be achieved 
through understanding the nature of the historical process, and more 
particularly, the correlations at work in history. This process of "relation- 
ism" was supposed to supplant relativism. Yet construction of these cor- 
relations again called for an absolute onlooker who somehow had the criteria 
for determining what in history was and was not in correlation. Ricoeur 
calls this failure in Mannheim's theory the desperate attempt to reconstruct 
"the Hegelian Spirit in an empirical system." 

Mannheim somewhat redresses this failure to overcome the paradox of 
ideology in his comparison of ideology and Utopia. As previously men- 
tioned, Mannheim is the first to place ideology and Utopia in a common 
conceptual framework. Unfortunately, however, Mannheim does not take 
the comparison very far, nor does he perceive that it offers an alternative 
to the contrast between ideology and science, which his own investigations 
have undermined as a model for social analysis. Mannheim describes ide- 
ology and Utopia as forms of noncongruence, vantage points in discrepancy 


Editor's Introduction 

with present reality. This highlights their representational qualities, which 
Ricoeur generally endorses, but it also perpetuates the scientific paradigm 
that ideology, because it is noncongruent, is deviation. "In contrast to 
someone like Geertz," Ricoeur comments, "Mannheim has no notion of a 
symbolically constituted order; hence an ideology is necessarily the non- 
congruent, something transcendent in the sense of the discordant or that 
which is not implied in humanity's genetic code." Ricoeur himself seizes 
upon the correlation between ideology and Utopia in order both to contrast 
it to the opposition between ideology and science and to indicate the path 
that he thinks social theory must take. 

[W]hat we must assume is that the judgment on ideology is always the judgment 
from a Utopia. This is my conviction: the only way to get out of the circularity in 
which ideologies engulf us is to assume a Utopia, declare it, and judge an ideology 
on this basis. Because the absolute onlooker is impossible, then it is someone within 
the process itself who takes the responsibility for judgment. ... It is to the extent 
finally that the correlation ideology-Utopia replaces the impossible correlation ide- 
ology-science that a certain solution to the problem of judgment may be found, a 
solution . . . itself congruent with the claim that no point of view exists outside the 
game. If there can be no transcendent onlooker, then a practical concept is what 
must be assumed, (lecture io) 15 

This core insight receives expanded treatment in the rest of the lectures. 
Ricoeur will return to discussion of Mannheim in the first lecture on Utopia. 

Ricoeur moves next to an analysis of Max Weber, replacing the causal 
model informing orthodox Marxism with Weber's motivational model. 
Marxism emphasizes that the ruling ideas of an epoch are those of the 
ruling class. Ricoeur contends, however, that this domination cannot be 
understood as a causal relation of economic forces and ideas but only as a 
relation of motivation. Here ideology attains what is for Ricoeur its second 
level ; it moves from functioning as distortion to functioning as legitimation. 
The question of legitimacy is ineradicable in social life, says Ricoeur, 
because no social order operates by force alone. Every social order in some 
sense seeks the assent of those it rules, and this assent to the governing 
power is what legitimates its rule. Two factors are involved here, then: the 
claim to legitimacy by the ruling authority, and the belief in the order's 
legitimacy granted by its subjects. The dynamics of this interaction can 
only be comprehended within a motivational framework, and this is what 
Weber helps to unfold. 

While Weber raises the role of claim and belief, he does not address what 

Editor's Introduction 


from Ricoeur's perspective is the most significant aspect of their interre- 
lation — the discrepancy between them. Ideology assumes its function as 
legitimation to compensate for this discrepancy. Weber himself does not 
develop a theory of ideology, and it is on this point that Ricoeur makes a 
significant addition to Weber's model. 16 Ricoeur's thesis about ideology as 
legitimation has three points. First, the problem of ideology here concerns 
the gap between belief and claim, the fact that the belief of the ruled must 
contribute more than is rationally warranted by the claim of the governing 
authority. Second, ideology's function is to fill this gap. And third, the 
demand that ideology fill the gap suggests the need for a new theory of 
surplus value, now tied not so much to work — as in Marx — as to power. 
The discrepancy between claim and belief is a permanent feature of political 
life, Ricoeur maintains, and it is ideology's permanent role to provide the 
needed supplement to belief that will fill this gap. 

Ricoeur next discusses Habermas. Habermas reappropriates and trans- 
forms themes present in previous figures, and Ricoeur's discussion of him 
anticipates and helps lay the ground for the consideration of Geertz and 
the concept of Utopia. Habermas is especially significant because he re- 
orients the concept of praxis in a direction that Ricoeur strongly recom- 
mends. Habermas claims that one of Marx's key mistakes is his failure to 
distinguish between relations of production and forces of production. Em- 
phasis on the latter alone gives rise to the objectivist interpretation of Marx. 
Recognition of the relations of production, on the other hand, acknowl- 
edges that praxis includes a certain institutional framework. By an insti- 
tutional framework Habermas means "the structure of symbolic action" 
and "the role of cultural tradition" through which people apprehend their 
work. "Once again," Ricoeur observes, "we see that the distinction between 
superstructure and infrastructure is not appropriate, because we include 
something of the so-called superstructure within the concept of praxis. . . . 
[P]raxis incorporates an ideological layer; this layer may become distorted, 
but it is a component of praxis itself" (lecture 13). Only when we distinguish 
between forces of production and relations of production may we speak of 
ideology ; ideology is a question for the latter alone. Habermas affirms the 
concept of praxis that Ricoeur has been trying to establish ; the role of "the 
structure of human interaction" in praxis corresponds with Ricoeur's per- 
sistent theme of the symbolic mediation of action. 

Habermas also resurrects the possibility of a science that avoids the false 
opposition with ideology. Habermas speaks of three sciences: instrumental, 


Editor's Introduction 

historical-hermeneutic, and critical social. He emphasizes the third and 
claims that psychoanalysis is its model. Within this third, critical science, 
the psychoanalytic concept of resistance is the paradigm for ideology, and 
the effort in psychoanalysis to overcome resistance, to achieve self-under- 
standing, is the prototype for the critique of ideology. For Habermas 
ideology is a mode of distorted communication, the systematic distortion 
of the dialogic relation. Someone like Weber may note the gap between 
claim and belief in matters of political legitimacy, but the power of Ha- , 
bermas' analysis lies in its recognition that this gap is the product of 
distorted relations and that bridging the gap is a result possible only at the 
end of a process of critique. 

Ricoeur applauds Habermas' development of a critical science, and yet 
he differs with Habermas over the latter's separation of the critical social 
sciences from the hermeneutic sciences. Ricoeur maintains that Habermas' 
second and third sciences cannot and should not be finally distinguished. 
Ricoeur's argument, set forth both in the present text and at greater length 
elsewhere, 17 is that the critical sciences are themselves hermeneutic, be- 
cause the ideological distortions they attempt to overturn are processes of 
desymbolization. "The distortions belong to the sphere of communicative 
action" (lecture 14). The critique of ideology is part of the communicative 
process, its critical moment ; we may say that it represents what in other 
terminology Ricoeur calls the moment of explanation within the process 
that moves from understanding to explanation to critical understanding. 

Habermas has replied to criticism about Knowledge and Human Inter- 
ests, the main text addressed by Ricoeur in the lectures, and his theory has 
moved in some new directions. But Knowledge and Human Interests 
remains central for discussion of Habermas' theory of ideology, and Ri- 
coeur's response in the lectures to the newer proposals is consistent with 
the criticism he has already advanced. Psychoanalysis continues to be an 
important model for the critical social sciences in Habermas, 18 and one 
way to specify the inadequacy of his theory, says Ricoeur, is to demonstrate 
the extent to which the parallelism between the two fails. Ricoeur's criticism 
bears both on the stance of the theorist engaged in critical social science 
and on the results this science intends to achieve. On the first point, Ricoeur 
maintains that, unlike the psychoanalyst, the critical theorist does not 
transcend the polemical situation. "The status of ideology-critique itself," 
he contends, "belongs to the polemical situation of ideology" (lecture 14). 
On the second point, while psychoanalysis does help the patient to attain 

Editor's Introduction 


the experience of recognition, this experience has no existing parallel in 
the critical social sciences. 

To take the second point further, we may say that in psychoanalysis 
recognition is the restoration of communication, either with the self or with 
others. For the critical social sciences, Habermas states, this communica- 
tive ability may be termed communicative competence. Ricoeur's criticism 
is that the analogy between recognition and communicative competence 
may not be as complete as Habermas intends, and more particularly, that 
he uses the notion of competence ambiguously. According to Chomsky's 
terminology, competence is the correlate of performance; it is an ability at 
our disposal. Communicative competence, however, is an ability that is 
not at our disposal but rather an unfulfilled ideal, a regulative idea. The 
notion of communication without boundary or constraint is one of an ideal 
speech act. Therefore, communicative competence does not have the same 
standing as recognition in psychoanalysis. While recognition is an actual 
experience, communicative competence is a Utopian ideal. 

We may summarize Ricoeur's two criticisms of Habermas as follows. 
First, the critical theorist cannot and does not stand outside or above the 
social process. Second, the only possibility for judgment is one that con- 
trasts ideology to Utopia, for it is only on the basis of a Utopia — the 
viewpoint of the ideal— that we can engage in critique. 

Ricoeur's model correlating ideology and praxis is finally completed 
when he describes the concept of ideology at its third level, ideology as 
intergration. Here the lectures turn to the long-anticipated discussion of 
Geertz. Ricoeur finds in Geertz confirmation of his own emphasis on the 
symbolic structure of action. All social action is already symbolically me- 
diated, and it is ideology that plays this mediating role in the social realm. 
Ideology is integrative at this stage; it preserves social identity. At its 
deepest level, then, ideology is not distortion but integration. It is, in fact, 
only on the basis of ideology's integrative function that its legitimative and 
distortive functions may appear. "Only because the structure of human 
social life is already symbolic can it be distorted" (lecture i). Distortion 
would not be possible without this prior symbolic function. Ideology 
becomes distortive at the point "when the integrative function becomes 
frozen, . . . when schematization and rationalization prevail" (lecture 15). 
Ricoeur leads us to a nonpejorative concept of ideology; ideology as sym- 
bolic mediation is constitutive of social existence. "The distinction between 
superstructure and infrastructure completely disappears, because symbolic 


Editor's Introduction 

systems belong already to the infrastructure, to the basic constitution of 
human being." 

Ricoeur also cites a second, related insight of Geertz's analysis: ideology 
can be profitably compared to the rhetorical devices of discourse. As we 
saw earlier, Ricoeur uses Weber's motivational model to consider how the x 
interests of the ruling class can be transformed into society's ruling ideas. 
The relation between interests and ideas is motivational, not causal. In 
Geertz the emphasis is no longer on the motives themselves but on how 
they become expressed in signs. There is a need, Ricoeur quotes Geertz, 
to analyze " 'how symbols symbolize, how they function to mediate mean- 
ings.' "" In this situation, Ricoeur contends, a positive meaning of rhetoric 
joins the integrative meaning of ideology, because ideology is "the rhetoric 
of basic communication." Just as with ideology, rhetorical devices cannot 
be excluded from language; they are instead an intrinsic part of language. 
Symbolic mediation is fundamental both to social action and to language. 
The Rule of Metaphor shows Ricoeur's abiding interest in this topic. 

In the final three lectures, Ricoeur shifts his attention to the subject of 
Utopia, building on the analysis of ideology already set forth. Each of the 
Utopia lectures focuses on a different figure (Mannheim, Saint-Simon, and 
Fourier), but they maintain a common theme. Ricoeur begins his analysis 
by considering why the relationship between ideology and Utopia is usually 
not explored, and he emphasizes that the differentiation between the two 
tends to disappear in Marxist thought. Whether Marxism views ideology 
to be in opposition to the real (the Marx of The German Ideology) or in 
opposition to science (orthodox Marxism), Utopia is placed in the same 
category as ideology: it is the unreal or the unscientific. The lectures return 
to Mannheim here, because he places ideology and Utopia in a common 
framework without reducing their differences. 

Mannheim's analysis proceeds in three steps: first, by a criteriology — a 
working definition of Utopia; second, by a typology; and third, by a tem- 
poral dynamics — the historical direction of the typology. Ricoeur's re- 
sponse to Mannheim's first step, the criteriology, orients his assessment as 
a whole. For Mannheim, both ideology and Utopia are noncongruent with 
reality, but ideology legitimates the existing order while Utopia shatters it. 
Ricoeur criticizes Mannheim because of the predominance granted to Uto- 
pia as noncongruence rather than as that which shatters. The implications 
of Mannheim's choice become apparent in his discussion of Utopia's tem- 
poral dynamics. Mannheim sees in the modern period in which he writes 

Editor's Introduction 


the dissolution of Utopia, the end of noncongruence, a world no longer in 
the making. Ricoeur argues that this determination is not only based upon 
certain sociological and historical evaluations but is also grounded within 
a particular conceptual framework. Mannheim seems bound to a way of 
thinking that defines reality by a scientific — even if not positivistic — 
perspective. Instead of developing a model founded on the tension between 
ideology and Utopia, which would permit a more dynamic sense of reality, 
his model opposes first ideology, and then Utopia, to a reality determined 
by rationalistic and scientific criteria : ideology and Utopia are noncongruent 
to, deviant from, reality. Because he does not include in his analysis the 
symbolic structure of life, Mannheim cannot incorporate into his model 
the permanent and positive traits of either ideology or Utopia. 

What are these permanent and positive traits? If the best function of 
ideology is integration, the preservation of the identity of a person or group, 
the best function of Utopia is exploration of the possible. The Utopia puts 
in question what presently exists; it is an imaginative variation on the 
nature of power, the family, religion, and so on. We are forced to experience 
the contingency of the social order. The Utopia is not only a dream, though, 
for it is a dream that wants to be realized. The intention of the Utopia is to 
change — to shatter — the present order. One of the chief reasons Ricoeur 
discusses Saint-Simon and Fourier is that they exemplify this perspective; 
they are representative of a type neglected by Mannheim — non-Marxist 
socialist Utopians — who made strenuous efforts to have their Utopias real- 
ized. Even while the Utopia's intent is to shatter reality, though, it also 
maintains a distance from any present reality. Utopia is the constant ideal, 
that toward which we are directed but which we never fully attain. Here 
Ricoeur builds on a sentiment of Mannheim's that the latter was not able 
to incorporate into his theory, that the death of Utopia would be the death 
of society. A society without Utopia would be dead, because it would no 
longer have any project, any prospective goals. 

If at a first level the correlation is between ideology as integration and 
Utopia as the "other," the possible, at a second level ideology is the legiti- 
mation of present authority while Utopia is the challenge to this authority. 
Utopia attempts to confront the problem of power itself. It may offer either 
an alternative to power or an alternative kind of power. It is on the question 
of power that ideology and Utopia directly intersect. Because a "credibility 
gap" exists in all systems of legitimation, all forms of authority, a place for 
Utopia exists also. "If . . . ideology is the surplus-value added to the lack 


Editor's Introduction 

of belief in authority," says Ricoeur, "utopia is what finally unmasks this_ 
surplus-value" (lecture 17). Utopia functions to expose the gap between 
the authority's claims for and the citizenry's beliefs in any system of 

If, as Ricoeur maintains, ideological legitimation must be linked to a 
motivational model, the Utopian confrontation of power raises questions 
about the sources of motivation. This question runs throughout the lectures 
on Saint-Simon and Fourier. Ricoeur is particularly interested in the way 
Utopias, even the most rationalistic, attempt to reintroduce the emotional 
impulse found prototypically in the "chiliastic" — or messianic — form of 
utopia described by Mannheim. Part of Ricoeur's interest is that the per- 
sistence of this need counters the dynamics envisaged by Mannheim, where 
the movement is away from the chiliastic. The problem is how to "impas- 
sionate society," to move it and motivate it. At times the answer is to call 
into prominence, as does Saint-Simon, the role of the artistic imagination. 
Another response is to call upon "the political educator." This role, which 
Ricoeur has described at greater length in other writings, 20 is that of 
"intellectual midwifery"; it is the role of the creative mind who begins a 
"chain reaction" in society. Saint-Simon, for example, thought that he 
himself played this part. Another way to raise this problematic of motiva- 
tion is to see how Utopias appropriate the language and claims of religion. 
On the basis of his discussions of Saint-Simon and Fourier, Ricoeur raises 
the question "whether all Utopias are not in some sense secularized religions 
that are also always supported by the claim that they found a new religion" 
(lecture 18). 21 

Utopia functions at a third level also. At the stage where ideology is 
distortion, its Utopian counterpart is fancy, madness, escape, the com- 
pletely unrealizable. Here utopia eliminates questions about the transition 
between the present and the Utopian future; it offers no assistance in 
determining or in proceeding on the difficult path of action. Further, utopia 
is escapist not only as to the means of its achievement, but as to the ends 
to be achieved. In a utopia no goals conflict; all ends are compatible. 
Ricoeur calls this pathological side of utopia "the magic of thought" (lecture 

Ricoeur concludes the lectures by observing that the correlation between 
ideology and utopia forms a circle, a practical circle: the two terms are 
themselves practical and not theoretical concepts. It is impossible for us 
to get out of this circle, for it is the unrelieved circle of the symbolic 

Editor's Introduction 


structure of action. A circle it may be, but one that challenges and tran- 
scends the impossible oppositions of ideology versus science or ideology 
versus reality. Within this circle, Ricoeur says, "we must try to cure the 
illnesses of Utopias by what is wholesome in ideology — by its element of 
identity . . . — and try to cure the rigidity, the petrification, of ideologies 
by the Utopian element." Yet it is too simple, Ricoeur adds, to let it be 
thought that the circle is merely continuous. We must try to make the 
circle a spiral. "We wager on a certain set of values and then try to be 
consistent with them; verification is therefore a question of our whole life. 
No one can escape this" (lecture 18). 

Ricoeur's lectures on ideology and Utopia have their own autonomy and 
develop masterfully the logic of their argument. By enlargening our per- 
spective, though, and turning from the lectures to an evaluation of their 
place within Ricoeur's work as a whole, we can better define both their 
import for this corpus and the view they open to its larger significance. 

ricoeur's corpus as a whole 

In the space of a few pages the scope of Ricoeur's work can be at best 
merely sketched. My intention is to focus on the past decade, with partic- 
ular attention to Ricoeur's writings on metaphor and on imagination; this 
work forms a central context for the present lectures. 

The most appropriate beginning is with The Rule of Metaphor, whose 
parallels with the lectures are striking. It seems no accident that the lectures 
were delivered in 1975, the same year the original French version of The 
Rule of Metaphor first appeared. To begin with this volume is apt in yet 
another sense, because it is part of a project still very much current in 
Ricoeur's thought. Ricoeur notes a direct connection between The Rule of 
Metaphor and Time and Narrative, his latest text, saying that the two 
"form a pair." Though published several years apart, "these works were 
conceived together." 22 As we shall see, then, the lectures share a conceptual 
framework with some of Ricoeur's most recent thinking. 

One of the basic aims of The Rule of Metaphor is to counter the popular 
view that metaphor is a deviation or substitution in naming, an ornamental 
addition that can be reduced to some "proper" — that is, literal — meaning. 
Ricoeur argues instead that "the denotation-connotation distinction has to 
be maintained to be entirely problematic ..." (RM:i48). Z3 In contrast, 
Ricoeur says, "a more precise semantics . . . shatters the illusion that words 


Editor's Introduction 

possess a proper, i.e. primitive, natural, original . . . meaning in them- 
selves. . . . [L]iteral does not mean proper in the sense of originary, but 
simply current, 'usual.' The literal sense is the one that is lexicalized" 
(RM:20,o— 91). No primordial relation exists between a word and that 
which it represents. The meaning of a word is not a given but rather 
something that must be established. The literal is not that with which we 
begin but the result of usage that has become customary. Ricoeur bases 
this analysis on his characterization of metaphor. A metaphor is not a 
product of naming but of predication ; it is the result of a semantic inter- 
action — a tension — between a word and the sentence in which it appears. 
A literal meaning is then the product of an interaction between word and 
sentence that invokes no tension; the usage is accepted, "current, 'usual.' " 
This reversal — that metaphor is not deviation from the literal but rather 
that the literal is itself a product of the relational — causes Ricoeur to 
propose that a basic "metaphoric" may be in fact the source of categorial 

Certainly, the only functioning of language we are aware of operates within an 
already constituted order; metaphor does not produce a new order except by 
creating rifts in an old order. Nevertheless, could we not imagine that the order 
itself is born in the same way that it changes? Is there not, in Gadamer's terms, a 
"metaphoric" at work at the origin of logical thought, at the root of all classification? 
. . . The idea of an initial metaphorical impulse destroys [the] oppositions between 
proper and figurative, ordinary and strange, order and transgression. It suggests 
the idea that order itself proceeds from the metaphorical constitution of semantic 
fields, which themselves give rise to genus and species. (RM:22-23) 24 

The affinity of Ricoeur's analysis here with the lectures on ideology is 
patent. Just as it is incorrect to portray metaphoric representation as a 
deviation from literal representation, so it is incorrect to portray ideological 
representation as a deviation from scientific representation. In both cases 
Ricoeur reverses the relationship, granting priority to the metaphoric and 
the ideological. The literal and the scientific exist only within the larger 
metaphoric and ideological fields. 

If an underlying "metaphoric" characterizes the nature of language, the 
parallel in social life is the symbolic mediation of human action. "[T]he 
so-called 'real' process already has a symbolic dimension. ... In other 
words, a pre-symbolic, and therefore preideological, stage of real life can 
nowhere be found. Symbolism in general is not a secondary effect of social 
life; it constitutes real life as socially meaningful." 25 As Ricoeur says else- 
where, "ideology is always an unsurpassable phenomenon of social exis- 

Editor's Introduction 


*' 26 Ricoeur also returns to this symbolic mediation of action in 

tencc. • • • 

Time and Narrative. If ideology as distortion makes no sense without an 
underlying symbolic structure of action that can be distorted, similarly 
"literature would be incomprehensible if it did not give a configuration to 
what was already a figure in human action" (TN:64). 27 An essential aspect 
of this prefiguration, Ricoeur says, is the symbolic mediation of action; 
this mediation is an "implicit or immanent symbolism" (TN 157). "Before 
being submitted to interpretation, symbols are interpretants internally 
related to some action" (TN^). 28 

To maintain that action is symbolically mediated or that ideology is 
insuperable seems to leave human beings caught in an unyielding circle, 
unfailingly determined by our culture, our class, our ethnic heritage, our 
nation. Yet, as his discussion of Habermas reveals, Ricoeur believes that a 
critical moment is still possible. We begin with an experience of belonging 
or participation in the culture, class, time, and so on that give us birth, 
but we are not completely bound by these factors. Instead, we are involved 
in a dialectic of understanding and explanation. Understanding — indicator 
of the relation of belonging — "precedes, accompanies, closes, and thus 
envelops explanation." But in return, "explanation develops understanding 
analytically." 29 In The Rule of Metaphor Ricoeur identifies the tension at 
work here as "the most primordial, most hidden dialectic — the dialectic 
that reigns between the experience of belonging as a whole and the power 
of distanciation that opens up the space of speculative thought" (RM = 31 3). 
This dialectic lies at the heart of the interpretive process. "Interpretation 
is . . .a mode of discourse that functions at the intersection of two domains, 
metaphorical and speculative. . . . On one side, interpretation seeks the 
clarity of the concept; on the other, it hopes to preserve the dynamism of 
meaning that the concept holds and pins down" (RM:303). 30 

The possibility of distance — this position of "distanciation" — that Ri- 
coeur points to has two dimensions: it can both expand and criticize a 
given understanding. Of greater significance, though, is the very existence 
of distance and its dialectic with belonging. While we are caught in ideol- 
ogy, we are not caught completely. At the same time, the moment of 
critique does not establish a science autonomous from ideology. As the 
lectures argue at greater length, science cannot be placed in absolute 
opposition to ideology. "[DJistanciation," Ricoeur writes, "as the dialec- 
tical counterpart of participation, is the condition of the possibility of a 
critique of ideologies, not without, but within hermeneutics." 31 

This tension between belonging and distanciation illuminates the nature 


Editor's Introduction 

of Ricoeur's general theory of hermeneutics. For Ricoeur, hermeneutics is 
a product of historical understanding. Because we can never entirely escape 
our cultural and other conditioning, our knowledge is necessarily partial 
and fragmentary. As in his criticism of Mannheim in the lectures, Ricoeur 
argues against the possibility of the uninvolved or absolute onlooker. No. 
human being can attain the perspective of what Hegel called Absolute 
Knowledge. The human condition of "pre-understanding," our situation 
of belonging, "excludes the total reflection which would put us in the 
advantageous position of non-ideological knowledge." 32 A social theory 
cannot escape from ideology, "because it cannot reach the perspective 
which would dissociate it from the ideological mediation to which the other 
members of the group are submitted." 33 Ricoeur's hermeneutics positions 
itself against the stance — previously quite in vogue — that speaks of "the 
end of ideology" as a historical possibility. 

In his defense of the ineradicably situated and historical character of 
human understanding, Ricoeur's hermeneutics supports Gadamer's and 
challenges the claims of objectivist hermeneutics, as found in the writings 
of Emilio Betti and E. D. Hirsch. 34 Hirsch, for example, has argued that 
in a text we can separate its meaning — what the text actually says — from 
its significance — what the text is about, its larger implications. Ricoeur 
responds, however, that this demarcation "cannot be maintained without 
equivocation." Hirsch may want "to subordinate the unstable realm of 
value to the stable realm of meaning," but Ricoeur finds that Hirsch has 
"undermined the stability of this realm by showing that all textual meaning 
has to be constructed, that all construction requires choice, and that all 
choice involves ethical values." 35 A figure parallel to Hirsch in the social 
sciences might be Max Weber. Ricoeur proclaims that no neutral, nonideo- 
logical stance is available. 

Hermeneutics is bound by the unrelieved hermeneutic circle. Yet as 
both the lectures and Ricoeur's more general comments on distanciation 
note, the possibility of critique persists. Because it includes critique, the 
hermeneutic situation is not nonrational — allowing endorsement only of 
whatever lies within the circle — but rational in a sensedifferent from formal 
rationality. Ricoeur attempts to recover the idea and possibility of practical 
reason, here in the Aristotelian rather than Kantian sense of the term. "We 
must speak less," Ricoeur says, "of the critique of practical reason than of 
practical reason as critique." Practical reason is located in the ethical and 
political realms, and there the degrees of rigor and truth are different from 

Editor's Introduction 


that which we have come to expect elsewhere. To attempt critique on the 
basis of "objective" reason is only to fall back into the "ruinous opposition 
of science and ideology." It is only from within the sphere of ideology that 
critique arises. 36 

Ricoeur in fact argues that hermeneutics does not so much fall simply 
on the side of practical reason, because it attempts to go beyond the very 
opposition between the "theoretical" and the "practical." Perpetuation of 
this opposition, Ricoeur says, leads only to a subtraction of belief from 
knowledge, while "Hermeneutics claims instead to generate a crisis within 
the very concept of the theoretical as expressed by the principle of the 
connectedness and unity of experience." 37 The effort of practical reason is 
to distinguish between objectification — the positive transformation of val- 
ues into discourses, practices, and institutions — and alienation — the dis- 
tortion of these values, the reification of discourses, practices, and insti- 
tutions. 38 The task of practical reason is therefore to balance between the 
metaphoric and speculative moments, between the originative value-laden 
impulse and the ordering response at work in social life. Because social 
action is mediated symbolically, ideology cannot be avoided, but the effort 
is to promote ideology at its integrative — and not distortive — level. 

Up to this point, I have located ideology and Utopia in Ricoeur's work 
at large by stressing his emphasis on the situated character of human 
existence. The focus has been on the basic "metaphoric," the possibility 
of critical distance, the historical character of the hermeneutic situation, 
and the fundamental need to revive practical reason. As the vocabulary 
suggests, these factors relate to existing sources of symbolic mediation and 
so correlate much more with the function of ideology than that of Utopia. 
I will now turn to themes that correspond more to the function of Utopia 
and begin by discussion of Ricoeur's philosophy of the imagination. A brief 
return to Ricoeur's theory of metaphor lays the foundation for this topic. 

In speaking earlier of the basic "metaphoric," I drew attention to The 
Rule of Metaphor's "most extreme hypothesis, that the 'metaphoric' that 
transgresses the categorial order also begets it" (RM:24). To unfold the 
import of imagination, we must reorder this characterization and emphasize 
that what begets the categorial order also transgresses it. In the act of 
transgression, metaphor destroys an old order but it does so "only to invent 
a new one"; the category-mistake that is metaphor "is nothing but the 
complement of a logic of discovery" (RM:22). This logic of discovery 
introduces Ricoeur's philosophy of the imagination. Ricoeur speaks of "the 


Editor's Introduction 

conception of imagination, first set out in the context of a theory of meta- 
phor centered around the notion of semantic innovation. . . ." 39 Elsewhere 
he draws an even more direct comparison between metaphor and imagi- 
nation: "It seems to me, it is in the moment of the emergence of a new 
meaning from the ruins of literal predication that imagination offers its 
specific mediation." 40 The logic of discovery at work in imagination is our 
particular interest. The notion of innovation is central both to Ricoeur's 
concept of Utopia and to his philosophic project as a whole. 

It is somewhat artificial, however, to point only to the innovative side 
of imagination, because both ideology and Utopia are processes of imagi- 
nation. Ricoeur both begins and ends the lectures by maintaining that the 
correlation of ideology and Utopia typifies what he calls the social and 
cultural imagination. In order to ascertain more precisely the character of 
Utopia as imagination, we should first consider how ideology and Utopia 
together form the social imagination. Ricoeur discusses this relation at 
several points in the lectures. In social life, imagination functions in two 
different ways: 

On the one hand, imagination may function to preserve an order. In this case the 
function of the imagination is to stage a process of identification that mirrors the 
order. Imagination has the appearance here of a picture. On the other hand, though, 
imagination may have a disruptive function; it may work as a breakthrough. Its 
image in this case is productive, an imagining of something else, the elsewhere. In 
each of its three roles, ideology represents the first kind of imagination; it has a 
function of preservation, of conservation. Utopia, in contrast, represents the second 
kind of imagination; it is always the glance from nowhere, (lecture 15) 

If ideology is imagination as picture, Utopia is imagination as fiction. "In 
a sense all ideology repeats what exists by justifying it, and so it gives a 
picture ... of what is. Utopia, on the other hand, has the fictional power 
of redescribing life" (lecture 18). Ricoeur builds on Kant to say that the 
comparison between picture and fiction may be characterized as one be- 
tween reproductive and productive imagination. 41 

I will leave aside commentary on the reproductive or ideological side of 
the imagination, whose characteristics were anticipated in discussing the 
situated nature of human existence and the "basic metaphoric" that "begets 
order." Instead, I turn to the imagination's productive or Utopian side. For 
Ricoeur, the Utopian quality of the imagination moves us from the consti- 
tuted to the constituting. The new perspective opened up by the Utopian 
has two effects, effects that are finally not separable: it offers a vantage 

Editor's Introduction 


nt from which to perceive the given, the already constituted, and it 
offers new possibilities above and beyond the given. Utopia is the view 
from "nowhere" — the literal meaning of the word — that ensures that we 
no longer take for granted our present reality. Ricoeur says that we may 
call utopia what in Husserlian terms is an imaginative variation regarding 
an essence. Utopia "has a constitutive role in helping us rethink the nature 
of our social life." It is "the way in which we radically rethink" the nature 
of the family, consumption, authority, religion, and so on; it is "the fantasy 
of an alternative society and its exteriorization 'nowhere' " that works "as 
one of the most formidable contestations of what is" (lecture i). Utopia 
acts not only to de-reify our present relations but to point to those possi- 
bilites that may yet be ours. 42 

In our earlier discussion, we saw that for Ricoeur distanciation affords 
us the moment of critique within social life. Explanation is the critical 
stance within understanding; the critique of ideologies is possible. When 
the focus is on Utopia instead of ideology, the point of critical distance is 
rather different. Instead of a confrontation of ideology by critique, ideology 
is opposed by Utopia. 43 While ideology-critique allows a reintegration of 
the critical moment within hermeneutics and so provides an alternative to 
the failed model that opposes ideology and science, the correlation of 
ideology and Utopia offers the alternative to the failed model that opposes 
ideology and reality. Because social action is ineluctably mediated through 
symbols, simple recourse to the "objective facts" is not determinative; what 
is a fact or what is the nature of this fact may be in dispute because of the 
varying interpretive schemata in which the fact is perceived and analyzed. 
At this level, the problem is not primarily one of facts but of "the conflict 
of interpretations," to cite Ricoeur's well-known phrase and title of one of 
his books. To put it in another language, we may say that the conflict is 
between metaphor and metaphor. 44 "We must destroy a metaphor," Ri- 
coeur says, "by the use of a contrary metaphor; we therefore proceed from 
metaphor to metaphor" (lecture 9). 45 No unmediated reality exists to which 
we can appeal; disagreement remains the conflict of interpretations. 

My inclination is to see the universe of discourse as a universe kept in motion by 
an interplay of attractions and repulsions that ceaselessly promote the interaction 
and intersection of domains whose organizing nuclei are off-centered in relation to 
one another; and still this interplay never comes to rest in an absolute knowledge 
that would subsume the tensions. (RM:302) 

So far, I have described the side of Utopia that offers us distance from 


Editor's Introduction 

present reality, the ability to avoid perceiving present reality as natural, 
necessary, or without alternative. What we must evaluate now is the char- 
acter of the alternative that Utopia proposes. Again our aim is to determine 
how this concept correlates with themes within Ricoeur's wider investiga- 
tions. We may begin by expanding a point only briefly mentioned before, 
that the Utopian quality of the imagination moves us from the instituted to 
the instituting. We return, therefore, to the productive character of the 
imagination. This capacity, Ricoeur says, may be termed "poetic." With 
the use of this term, Ricoeur indicates that he has begun his long-antici- 
pated investigation of the "poetics of the will," itself one part of a project 
he has called a "philosophy of the will." 4 * 

The poetic has the function of "making" and of change, and is a concept 
addressed in both The Rule of Metaphor and Time and Narrative. The 
"meaning-effects" of metaphor and narrative "belong to the same phenom- 
enon of semantic innovation" (TN:ix). Both metaphorical utterance and 
narrative discourse are included in "one vast poetic sphere" (TN:xi). If 
metaphor and narrative involve semantic innovation, the implications ex- 
tend to innovation in social existence as a whole. At one point Ricoeurgoes 
so far as to say that the problem of creativity has been the single issue 
guiding the entire course of his reflections. 47 Ricoeur's work may have 
focused on the status of language, but his conclusions have much larger 
implications. "[TJhrough this recovery of the capacity of language to create 
and recreate, we discover reality itself in the process of being created." 
Poetic language "is attuned to this dimension of reality which itself is 
unfinished and in the making. Language in the making celebrates reality 
in the making." 48 The nature of this relation can be made more precise by 
looking, once again, to the role of metaphor. 

If this analysis is sound, we should have to say that metaphor not only shatters the 
previous structures of our language, but also the previous structures of what wc 
call reality. When we ask whether metaphorical language teaches reality, we pre- 
suppose that we already know what reality is. But if we assume that metaphor 
redescribes reality, we must then assume that this reality as redescribed is itself 
novel reality. My conclusion is that the strategy of discourse implied in metaphorical 
languages is ... to shatter and to increase our sense of reality by shattering and 
increasing our language. . . . With metaphor we experience the metamorphosis »l 
both language and reality. 49 

At the social level, Utopia has this metaphoric quality. As productive 
imagination its task is "exploration of the possible." It is true, Ricoeur 

Editor's Introduction 


that "A model may reflect what is, but it also may pave the way for 
what is not" (lecture 18). This capacity of Utopia to change reality brings 
out the argument of the lectures in greater force. Utopia is not simply a 
Jream but one that wants to be actualized. "The Utopia's intention is surely 

change things, and therefore we cannot say with Marx's eleventh thesis 
on Feuerbach that it is a way only of interpreting the world and not 
changing it" (lecture 17). The model that sets ideology in opposition to 
reality is inadequate, because reality is symbolically mediated from the 
beginning. Similarly, a model that sets Utopia in opposition to reality is 
inadequate because reality is not a given but a process. 

Reality is always caught in the flux of time, in the processes of change 
that Utopia attempts to bring about. In Time and Narrative, Ricoeur 
considers at length the function of time and emphasizes the "dynamic 
aspect which the adjective 'poetic' imposes on . . . [his] analysis." His 
defense of "the primacy of our narrative understanding" in relation to 
explanation in history and narrative fiction is a defense of "the primacy of 
the activity that produces plots in relation to every sort of static structure, 
achronological paradigm, or temporal invariant" (TN:33). 50 The juxta- 
position of understanding and explanation gains a temporal dimension. 
The poetic nature of reality receives its most emphatic characterization in 
The Rule of Metaphor, where Ricoeur speaks of "the revelation of the Real 
as Act." The poetic capacity, the capacity for creativity and change, is a 
most fundamental characteristic of reality in general and the human con- 
dition in particular. "To present [human beings] 'as acting' and all things 
'as in act' — such could well be the ontological function of metaphorical 
discourse . . ."(RM:43). 

One of the most significant results of Ricoeur's emphasis on the real as 
act is that the very nature of truth can no longer be taken for granted. 
Actually, Ricoeur says, the nature of truth is put in question by both the 
temporal and the symbolic dimensions of human existence. On the one 
hand, because human life is symbolically mediated, any concept of the real 
is interpretive. The model of truth as adequation is inadequate; we can no 
longer maintain that an interpretation corresponds with or represents some 
unmediated, "literal" fact. Instead, poetic language breaks through to "a 
pre-scientific, ante-predicative level, where the very notions of fact, object, 
reality, and truth, as delimited by epistemology, are called into question 
. . ." (RM 1254). 51 We cannot finally separate the real from our interpre- 
tation; the very nature of the real retains a metaphoric quality. The meta- 


Editor's Introduction 

phor is also at work in the temporal dimension, because "the reference uf 
metaphorical utterance brings being as actuality and as potentiality into 
play" (RM:307). At the social level the role of potentiality is assumed by 

Ricoeur's response to this challenge to the notion of reality is to call fur 
a "radical reformulation of the problem of truth." 52 Ricoeur will develop 
this topic in volume 3 of Time and Narrative, but anticipates his treatment 
by speaking in earlier works of a "metaphorical" or "prospective" concept 
of truth. 53 The task, says Ricoeur, is to "go so far as to metaphorize the 
verb 'to be' itself and recognize in 'being-as' the correlate of 'seeing-as,' in 
which is summed up the work of metaphor" (TN :8o). What we understand 
to be the real is symbolically mediated from the beginning, and the real is 
also always in process. Therefore, Ricoeur claims, "the real is everything 
already prefigured that is also transfigured." The boundary line between 
invention and discovery can no longer be maintained. "[I]t is vain . . . to 
ask whether the universal that poetry 'teaches,' according to Aristotle, 
already existed before it was invented. It is as much found as invented.""* 

The possibilities of creativity and change opened by Ricoeur's meta- 
phoric theory of truth are perhaps the culmination of his philosophic 
enterprise. Yet as ever in Ricoeur, to appreciate fully these possibilities wc 
must reintroduce the dialectic and reemphasize the sources out of which 
these possibilities arise. We must reclaim the dialectic of Utopia and ide- 
ology. This move is anticipated in the quotation above on the dynamic 
relation between prefiguration and transfiguration. If Utopia opens the 
possible, it does so on the basis of a metaphoric transformation of the 
existing. We earlier used the concept of ideology to orient our discussion 
of the fact that we have always already begun, that we always find ourselves 
within a situation of symbolic mediation — of class, nation, religion, gender , 
and so forth. As the lectures demonstrate, ideology here is the nonpejorativc 
figure of identity and integration. 

This dialectic between the prefigured and the transfigured takes several 
forms in Ricoeur's work. He describes religious faith, for example, as rooted 
in the tension between memory and expectation. 55 Another example may 
be found in the character of ethical life: "Freedom only posits itself by 
transvaluating what has already been evaluated. The ethical life is a per- 
petu?' transaction between the project of freedom and its ethical situation 
outlined by the given world of institutions." 56 More generally we may say 
that the dialectic between the prefigured and the transfigured provides an 

Editor's Introduction 


enlarged sense of the meaning of tradition. A tradition is "not the inert 
transmission of some already dead deposit of material but the living trans- 
mission of an innovation always capable of being reactivated by a return 
to the most creative moments of poetic activity. ... In fact, a tradition is 
constituted by the interplay of innovation and sedimentation" (TN:68). 

If the dialectic of ideology and Utopia functions in one sense as the 
conjunction of prefiguration and transfiguration, it also operates at another 
level one described by a theory of interpretation. Here the emphasis on 
Utopia points to possibilities, but this metaphoric movement must be 
counterbalanced by the response of speculative thought. 

Interpretation is ... a mode of discourse that functions at the intersections of two 
domains, metaphorical and speculative. It is a composite discourse, therefore, and 
as such cannot but feel the opposite pull of two rival demands. On one side, 
interpretation seeks the clarity of the concept; on the other, it hopes to preserve 
the dynamism of meaning that the concept holds and pins down. (RM 1303) 

We may incorporate this tension as the final result of the analyses advanced 
thus far. Earlier I spoke of the possibility of the critical moment within 
ideology. Ideology is a symbolic formulation from which we can achieve 
some distance. This model is Ricoeur's response to the inadequate para- 
digm that placed ideology and science in basic opposition. Later I showed 
how Ricoeur disputes the model opposing ideology to reality and invokes 
instead the dialectic between ideology and Utopia. There is no possibility 
of attaining a nonideological layer of reality, but ideologies as paradigms 
are still open to the criticism coming from the "nowhere" of Utopia. I then 
went on to explore the dimensions of possibility the Utopia allows. Ricoeur's 
theory of interpretation, or hermeneutics, confirms that we must maintain 
the dialectic and move back from a criticism of ideology by Utopia to what 
we may call a criticism of Utopia by ideology. This revives the critical 
moment within interpretation, but now it is no longer criticism as a moment 
within ideology but the critique of the Utopian — the open, the possible — 
by the drive for identity — the ideological. We must confront who we may 
be by who we are. 57 A hermeneutics like Ricoeur's, attuned to "the mytho- 
poetic core of imagination," must face the challenge of the "hermeneutics 
of suspicion." 

[A] reference to Freud's "reality principle" and to its equivalents in Nietzsche 
and Marx — eternal return in the former, understood necessity in the latter — brings 
out the positive benefit of the ascesis required by a reductive and destructive 


Editor's Introduction 

interpretation: confrontation with bare reality, the discipline of Ananke, < >f 
necessity. 58 

To some extent this is to reiterate that we are caught in a conflict of 
interpretations. Yet, as Ricoeur's statement on interpretation demon- 
strates, conflict is not simply opposition. We recall a comment quoted 
earlier, where Ricoeur says that he sees "the universe of discourse as a 
universe kept in motion by an interplay of attractions and repulsions that 
ceaselessly promote the interaction and intersection of domains whose 
organizing nuclei are off -centered in relation to one another . . ." 
(RM:302). If we may use the imagery of metaphor once more, we may say 
that the conflict of interpretations is a play of both similarity and difference 
and not merely difference. The hermeneutic circle is not a vicious circle, 
endlessly circling only around itself. Instead, differing interpretations react 
and respond to one another, and attempt to incorporate or subsume one 
another. As Ricoeur observes in the lectures, the task is to make the circle 
a spiral (lecture 18). 

There is also another implication of Ricoeur's definition of interpreta- 
tion. He defines interpretation not as a response merely to the metaphoric 
but as something that functions at the intersection of the metaphoric and 
the speculative. Ricoeur's hermeneutics cannot be defined merely as a 
theory of understanding — as can Gadamer's philosophical hermeneutics, 
for example — but as a theory of understanding that includes the dimension 
of explanation, the dimension of critical distance. 59 In this sense, we may 
say that Ricoeur's "detours" through the hermeneutics of suspicion — 
through psychoanalysis, through structuralism, and now through Marx — 
are the critical moments within, and not over against, his own hermeneutic 
theory. The conflict between the metaphoric and the speculative may- 
persist, and yet interpretation attempts to encompass them both within an 
envisaged whole. 66 

Metaphor is living not only to the extent that it vivifies a constituted language. 
Metaphor is living by virtue of the fact that it introduces the spark of imagination 
into a "thinking more" at the conceptual level. This struggle to "think more, " 
guided by the "vivifying principle," is the "soul" of interpretation. (RM:303) 

Ricoeur summarizes his analysis of ideology and Utopia by saying: "Ide- 
ology and Utopia have ultimately to do with the character of human action 
as being mediated, structured and integrated by symbolic systems." 61 The 
conjunction of ideology and Utopia typifies the social imagination, and 

Editor's Introduction 


^ eur » s argument is that "social imagination is constitutive of social 
r jlity itself" (lecture i). Interpretation and practice cannot be divorced. 
The task of interpretation in its relation to this nexus is to "think more." 
It is a task that Ricoeur takes for his own and that his work unceasingly 



As I mentioned above, Paul Ricoeur delivered the ideology and Utopia 
lectures in the fall of 1975 at the University of Chicago. The lectures were 
taped in their entirety, and a verbatim transcript was created from these 
tapes. My editing of the lectures was based on these transcripts and on 
Ricoeur's own lecture notes, which he graciously provided to me. Ricoeur's 
lecture notes were available for all except for the first, introductory lecture, 
the two lectures on Marx's The German Ideology, and the lecture on Geertz. 
Each lecture was developed from approximately four tightly written pages 
of notes; Ricoeur wrote the notes in English. The aim in the editing was 
to incorporate the notes where they added to the presentation in lecture, 
whether as a point of clarification or as a section left out in lecture because 
of time limitations. 

A few other changes were made in the process of transforming the 
lectures into a printed text. Several of the original lectures began or ended 
with discussion periods. All questions asked of Ricoeur have been deleted, 
but Ricoeur's responses have been integrated into the text. Introductory 
comments on Mannheim that originally appeared at the end of lecture 9 
have been moved to the beginning of lecture 10. The quotations of Weber 
in lectures 11 and 12 were originally taken from the Parsons translation, 
The Theory of Social and Economic Organization. Because the two-volume 
edition of Economy and Society is both the translation Ricoeur prefers and 
the standard Weber translation currently, all Weber citations now refer to 
this text. Ricoeur's responses to discussion questions on Weber at the 
beginning of lecture 13 have been moved to lecture 12. Because this left 
lecture 13 rather abbreviated, and because the original division between 
lectures 13 and 14 was arbitrarily forced because of time constraints, the 
textrecombines the original lectures 13 through 15 (all on Habermas) into 
two lectures in print. As a result, while there were 19 original lectures, the 
present volume has 18. 

The published text preserves the lecture quality of Ricoeur's original 


Editor's Introduction 

presentation. Ricoeur's discursive style in lecture should make this work 
more accessible, and readers may find his commentary and other paren- 
thetical remarks of interest. The lecture format has also been maintained 
to indicate the status of this text. Though he has reviewed the lectures 
extensively in preparation for their publication, Ricoeur has not reworked 
them. This text should therefore be distinguished from other works of 
Ricoeur's specifically written for publication. 

All notes to the lectures are the editor's and have been discussed witli 
Ricoeur; they have intentionally been kept to a minimum. Several notes 
contain direct quotations of Ricoeur, based on taped conversations with 
the editor. These conversations took place in May 1984 at the National 
Humanities Center, North Carolina, and in December 1984 at the Uni- 
versity of Chicago. Full bibliographic citations to works mentioned in the 
text or in the notes appear at the end of the volume. 

Lectures on Ideology and Utopia 

Introductory Lecture 

In these lectures I examine ideology and Utopia. My purpose is to put these 
two phenomena, usually treated separately, within a single conceptual 
framework. The organizing hypothesis is that the very conjunction of these 
two opposite sides or complementary functions typifies what could be called 
social and cultural imagination. 1 Thus, most of the difficulties and ambi- 
guities met in the field of a philosophy of imagination, which I am exploring 
now in a separate set of lectures, 2 will appear here but within a particular 
framework. In turn, my conviction, or at least my hypothesis, is that the 
dialectic between ideology and Utopia may shed some light on the unsolved 
general question of imagination as a philosophical problem. 

Inquiry into ideology and Utopia reveals at the outset two traits shared 
by both phenomena. First, both are highly ambiguous. They each have a 
positive and a negative side, a constructive and a destructive role, a con- 
stitutive and a pathological dimension. A second common trait is that of 
the two sides of each, the pathological appears before the constitutive, 
requiring us to proceed backwards from the surface to the depths. Ideology, 
then, designates initially some distorting, dissimulating processes by which 
an individual or a group expresses its situation but without knowing or 
recognizing it. An ideology seems to express, for example, the class situa- 
tion of an individual without the individual's awareness. Therefore the 
procedure of dissimulation does not merely express but reinforces this class 
perspective. As for the concept of Utopia, it frequently has a pejorative 
reputation too. It is seen to represent a kind of social dream without concern 
for the real first steps necessary for movement in the direction of a new 
society. Often a Utopian vision is treated as a kind of schizophrenic attitude 
toward society, both a way of escaping the logic of action through a 


Introductory Lecture 

construct outside history and a form of protection against any kind of 
verification by concrete action. 

My hypothesis is that there is a positive as well as negative side to both 
ideology and Utopia and that the polarity between these two sides of each 
term may be enlightened by exploring a similar polarity between the two 
terms. My claim is that this polarity both between ideology and Utopia and 
within each of them may be ascribed to some structural traits of what I 
call cultural imagination. These two polarities encompass what are for me 
the main tensions in our study of ideology and Utopia. 

The polarity between ideology and Utopia has scarcely been taken as a 
theme of research since Karl Mannheim's famous book Ideology and Uto- 
pia. This book, on which I shall rely heavily, was first published in 1929. 
I think that Mannheim is the one person, at least until very recently, to 
have tried to put ideology and Utopia within a common framework, and he 
did this by considering them both as deviant attitudes toward reality. It is 
within their common aspect of noncongruence with actuality, of discrep- 
ancy, that they diverge. 

Since Mannheim, most attention to these phenomena has focused on 
either ideology or Utopia, but not both together. We have, on the one hand, 
a critique of ideology, mainly in Marxist and post-Marxist sociologists. I 
think particularly of the Frankfurt School, represented by Habermas, Karl- 
Otto Apel, and others. In contrast to this sociological critique of ideology, 
we find a history and sociology of Utopia. And the latter field's attention to 
Utopia has little connection with the former's attention to ideology. The 
separation between these two fields may be changing, however ; there is at 
least some renewed interest in their connections. 

The difficulty in connecting ideology and Utopia is understandable, 
though, because they are presented in such different ways. Ideology is 
always a polemical concept. The ideological is never one's own position; it 
is always the stance of someone else, always their ideology. When sometimes 
characterized too loosely, an ideology is even said to be the fault of the 
other. People thus never say they are ideological themselves; the term is 
always directed against the other. Utopias, on the other hand, are advocated 
by their own authors, and they even constitute a specific literary genre. 
There are books which are called Utopias, and they have a distinct literary 
status. Thus, the linguistic presence of ideology and Utopia is not at all the 
same. Utopias are assumed by their authors, whereas ideologies are denied 
by theirs. This is why it is at first sight so difficult to put the two phenomena 

Introductory Lecture 


together. We must dig under their literary or semantic expressions in order 
to discover their functions 3 and then establish a correlation at this level. 

In my own attention to this deeper, functional level of correlation, I take 
Karl Mannheim's suggestion of the concept of noncongruence as the start- 
ing point of my inquiry. I do so because the possibility of noncongruence, 
of discrepancy, in many ways already presupposes that individuals as well 
as collective entities are related to their own lives and to social reality not 
only in the mode of a participation without distance but precisely in the 
mode of noncongruence; all the figures of noncongruence must be part of 
our belonging to society. My claim is that this is true to such an extent that 
social imagination is constitutive of social reality. So the presupposition 
here is precisely that of a social imagination, of a cultural imagination, 
operating in both constructive and destructive ways, as both confirmation 
and contestation of the present situation. Therefore, it may be a fruitful 
hypothesis that the polarity of ideology and Utopia has to do with the 
different figures of noncongruence typical of social imagination. And per- 
haps the positive side of the one and the positive side of the other are in 
the same relation of complementarity as the negative and pathological side 
of the one is to the negative and pathological side of the other. 

But before trying to say anything more here about this overarching 
complementarity which is the horizon of my inquiry, I want briefly to 
present the two phenomena separately. I shall start from the pole of 
ideology and then consider the second pole, the opposite pole, of Utopia. 

The most prevalent conception of ideology in our Western tradition 
stems from the writings of Marx, or more precisely, from the writings of 
the young Marx : the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right, " the Economic 
and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844, and The German Ideology. In the 
title and content of this last book, the concept of ideology comes to the 

I mention only in passing an earlier, more positive use of the word 
"ideology," since it has disappeared from the philosophical scene. This 
usage derived from a school of thought in eighteenth-century French 
philosophy, people who called themselves ideologues, advocates of a theory 
of ideas. Theirs was a kind of semantic philosophy, saying philosophy has 
not to do with things, with reality, but merely with ideas. If this school of 
thought is of any remaining interest, it is perhaps because the pejorative 
use of the word "ideology" started precisely in reference to it. As opponents 
of the French Empire under Napoleon, this school's members were treated 


Introductory Lecture 

as ideologues. Therefore, the negative connotation of the term is traceable 
to Napoleon and was first applied to this group of philosophers. This 
perhaps warns us that there is always some Napoleon in us who designates 
the other as ideologue. Possibly there is always some claim to power in the 
accusation of ideology, but we shall return to that later. As for any rela- 
tion between this French concept of ideologic and the pejorative use of 
ideology in the left Hegelians, the group from which Marx sprang, I do 
not see any direct transition, though others may have better information 
on this than I. 

Turning to Marx himself, how is the term "ideology" introduced in his 
early writings? I shall return to this topic in following lectures with the 
support of texts, but let me offer now a short survey, a mapping, of the 
different uses of the word. It is interesting to see that the term is introduced 
in Marx by means of a metaphor borrowed from physical or physiological 
experience, the experience of the inverted image found in a camera or in 
the retina. From this metaphor of the inverted image, and from the physical 
experience behind the metaphor, we get the paradigm or model of distor- 
tion as reversal. This imagery, the paradigm of an inverted image of reality, 
is very important in situating our first concept of ideology. Ideology's first 
function is its production of an inverted image. 

This still formal concept of ideology is completed by a specific descrip- 
tion of some intellectual and spiritual activities which are described as 
inverted images of reality, as distortions through reversal. As we shall see, 
here Marx depends on a model put forth by Feuerbach, who had described 
and discussed religion precisely as an inverted reflection of reality. In 
Christianity, said Feuerbach, subject and predicate are reversed. While in 
reality human beings are subjects who have projected onto the divine their 
own attributes (their own human predicates) , in fact the divine is perceived 
by human beings as a subject of which we become the predicate. (Notice 
all this is expressed by Feuerbach in Hegelian categories.) The typically 
Feuerbachian paradigm of inversion thus involves an exchange between 
subject and predicate, between human subject and divine predicate, that 
results in the substitution of a divine subject having human predicates for 
a human subject. Following Feuerbach, Marx assumes that religion is the 
paradigm, the first example, the primitive example, of such an inverted 
reflection of reality which turns everything upside down. Feuerbach and 
Marx react in opposition to Hegel's model, which turns things upside 
down; their effort is to set them right side up, on their feet. The image of 

Introductory Lecture 


reversal is striking, and it is the generating image of Marx's concept of 
ideology- Enlarging the concept borrowed from Feuerbach of religion as 
inversion between subject and predicate, the young Marx extends to the 
hole realm of ideas this paradigmatic functioning. 

Perhaps here the French concept of ideologic can be recaptured within 
a post-Hegelian framework. When separated from the process of life, the 
process of common work, ideas tend to appear as an autonomous reality ; 
this leads to idealism as ideology. A semantic continuity exists between the 
claim that ideas constitute a realm of their own autonomous reality and the 
claim that ideas provide guides or models or paradigms for construing 
experience. Therefore it is not only religion but philosophy as idealism 
that appears as the model of ideology. (As a cautionary note, we should 
point out that the picture of German idealism presented here — that is, the 
claim that reality proceeds from thought — is more accurate as a description 
of a popular understanding of idealism than of the supposed locus of this 
idealism, Hegelian philosophy itself. Hegelian philosophy emphasized that 
the rationality of the real is known through its appearance in history, and 
this is contrary to any Platonic reconstruction of reality according to ideal 
models. Hegel's philosophy is much more neo-Aristotelian than neo-Pla- 
tonic.) In any case, the popular interpretation of idealism prevailed in the 
culture of Marx's time, and as a result not only religion but idealism, as a 
kind of religion for lay people, was elevated to the function of ideology. 

The negative connotation of ideology is fundamental because ideology, 
according to this first model, appears as the general device by which the 
process of real life is obscured. I insist, therefore, that the main opposition 
in Marx at this point is not between science and ideology, as it becomes 
later, but between reality and ideology. The conceptual alternative to 
ideology for the young Marx is not science but reality, reality as praxis. 
People do things, and then they imagine what they are doing in a kind of 
cloudy realm. Thus we say first there is a social reality in which people 
fight to earn their living, and so on, and this is real reality, as praxis. This 
reality is then represented in the heaven of ideas, but it is falsely represented 
as having a meaning autonomous to this realm, as making sense on the 
basis of things which can be thought and not only done or lived. The claim 
against ideology therefore comes from a kind of realism of life, a realism 
of practical life for which praxis is the alternate concept to ideology. Marx's 
system is materialist precisely in its insistence that the materiality of praxis 
precedes the ideality of ideas. The critique of ideology in Marx proceeds 


Introductory Lecture 

from the claim that philosophy has inverted the real succession, the real 
genetic order, and the task is to put things back in their real order. The 
task is a reversal of a reversal. 

Starting from this first concept of ideology, in which I insist that ideology 
is not opposed to science but to praxis, the second stage of the Marxist 
concept arises after Marxism has been developed in the form of a theory 
and even a system. This stage comes into view in Capital and subsequent 
Marxist writings, especially the work of Engels. Here Marxism itself ap- 
pears as a body of scientific knowledge. An interesting transformation of 
the concept of ideology follows from this development. Ideology now 
receives its meaning from its opposition to science, with science identified 
as the body of knowledge and Capital as its paradigm. Thus, ideology 
implies not only religion in Feuerbach's sense or the philosophy of German 
idealism as seen by the young Marx, but includes all prescientific ap- 
proaches to social life. Ideology becomes identical to all that is prescientific 
in our own approach to social reality. 

At this point the concept of ideology engulfs that of Utopia. All Utopias — 
and particularly the socialist Utopias of the nineteenth century, those of 
Saint-Simon, Fourier, Cabet, Proudhon, and so on — are treated by Marx- 
ism as ideologies. As we shall see, Engels radically opposes scientific so- 
cialism to Utopian socialism. In this approach to ideology, therefore, a 
Utopia is ideological because of its opposition to science. Utopia is ideolog- 
ical to the extent that it is nonscientific, prescientific, and even 
counterscientific . 

Another development in this Marxist concept of ideology arises because 
of the meaning given to science by later Marxists and post-Marxists. Their 
concept of science can be divided into two main strands. The first originates 
in the Frankfurt School and involves the attempt to develop science in the 
Kantian or Fichtean sense of a critique such that the study of ideology is 
linked to a project of liberation. This connection between a project of 
liberation and a scientific approach is directed against the treatment of 
social reality found in any positivistic sociology that merely describes. Here 
the concept of an ideology-critique presupposes a stand taken against 
sociology as merely an empirical science. The empirical science of sociology 
is itself treated as a kind of ideology of the liberal, capitalistic system, as 
developing a purely descriptive sociology so as not to put into question its 
own presuppositions. It seems that step by step everything becomes 

Introductory Lecture 


What is most interesting, I think, in this German school represented by 
Horkheimer, Adorno, Habermas, and so on is the attempt to link the 
critical process of Ideologiekritik to psychoanalysis. The Frankfurt School 
claims that the project of liberation which its sociological critique offers 
for society parallels what psychoanalysis achieves for the individual. A 
measure of exchange of conceptual frameworks occurs between sociology 
and psychoanalysis. This is typical of the German school. 

A second concept of science developed by Marxism features a conjunc- 
tion not with psychoanalysis, which takes care of the individual, but with 
structuralism, which brackets any reference to subjectivity. The kind of 
structuralist Marxism developed mainly in France by Louis Althusser (on 
whom we shall dwell in some detail) tends to put all humanistic claims on 
the side of ideology. The claim of the subject to be the one who makes 
sense of reality (Sinngebung) is precisely the basic illusion, Althusser 
contends. Althusser is arguing against the claim of the subject in the 
idealistic version of phenomenology, which is typified by Husserl's Carte- 
sian Meditations. The comparison is to Marx's critique of capitalism, where 
he did not attack the capitalists but analyzed the structure of capital itself. 
For Althusser, therefore, the writings of the young Marx must not be 
considered; it is rather the mature Marx who presents the main notion of 
ideology. The young Marx is still ideological, since he defends the claim 
of the subject as individual person, as individual worker. Althusser judges 
the concept of alienation in the young Marx as the typically ideological 
concept of pre-Marxism. Thus, all the work of the young Marx is treated 
as ideological. According to Althusser, la coupure, the break, the dividing 
line between what is ideological and what is scientific, must be drawn 
within the work of Marx itself. The concept of ideology is extended so far 
as to include a portion of Marx's own work. 

So we see the strange result of this continuing extension of the concept 
of ideology. Starting from religion for Feuerbach, the concept of ideology 
progressively covers German idealism, prescientific sociology, objectivist 
psychology and sociology in their positivistic forms, and then all the hu- 
manistic claims and complaints of "emotional" Marxism. The implication 
seems to be that everything is ideological, although this is not exactly the 
pure doctrine of Marxism! I shall discuss some late articles by Althusser 
which present finally a kind of apology for ideology. Since very few people 
live their lives on the basis of a scientific system, particularly if we reduce 
the scientific system only to what is said in Capital, then we may say that 


Introductory Lecture 

everyone lives on the basis of an ideology. The very extension of the concept 
of ideology acts as a progressive legitimation and justification of the concept 

My own attempt, as perhaps has already been anticipated, is not to deny 
the legitimacy of the Marxist concept of ideology, but to relate it to some 
of the less negative functions of ideology. We must integrate the concept 
of ideology as distortion into a framework that recognizes the symbolic 
structure of social life. Unless social life has a symbolic structure, there is 
no way to understand how we live, do things, and project these activities 
in ideas, no way to understand how reality can become an idea or how re"al 
life can produce illusions; these would all be simply mystical and incom- 
prehensible events. This symbolic structure can be perverted, precisely by 
class interests and so on as Marx has shown, but if there were not a symbolic 
function already at work in the most primitive kind of action, I could not 
understand, for my part, how reality could produce shadows of this kind. 
This is why I am seeking a function of ideology more radical than the 
distorting, dissimulating function. The distorting function covers only a 
small surface of the social imagination, in just the same way that halluci- 
nations or illusions constitute only a part of our imaginative activity in 

One way to prepare this more radical extension is to consider what some 
writers in the United States have called Mannheim's paradox. Mannheim's 
paradox results from his observation of the development of the Marxist 
concept of ideology. The paradox is the nonapplicability of the concept of 
ideology to itself. In other words, if everything that we say is bias, it 
everything we say represents interests that we do not know, how can we 
have a theory of ideology which is not itself ideological? The reflexivity of 
the concept of ideology on itself provides the paradox. 

Importantly, this paradox is not at all a mere intellectual game; Mann- 
heim himself lived and felt the paradox most acutely. As for myself, I 
consider Mannheim a model of intellectual integrity for the way he con- 
fronted this problem. He began with the Marxist concept of ideology and 
said, but if it is true, then what I am doing is ideology too, the ideology of 
the intellectual or the ideology of the liberal class, something which devel- 
ops the kind of sociology I am now engaged in. The extension of Marx's 
concept of ideology itself provides the paradox of the reflexivity of the 
concept according to which the theory becomes a part of its own referent. 
To be absorbed, to be swallowed by its own referent, is perhaps the fate 
of the concept of ideology. 

Intmductory Lecture 


We should note that this extension, this generalization, is not linked 
la tely to the internal history of Marxism but has parallels in what the 
Marxists call bourgeois sociology, particularly American sociology. Take, 
for example, Talcott Parsons in his article "An Approach to the Sociology 
of Knowledge," or in his book The Social System; or read Edward Shils's 
kc-v essay, "Ideology and Civility." 4 Parsons and Shils argue for a strain 
theory, according to which the function of a social system is to correct 
sociopsychological disequilibrium. According to this hypothesis, every 
theory is part 01 tr, e system of strain which it describes. Just as in the case 
ot Marxist theory, therefore, the concept of strain, which formerly domi- 
nated American sociology, also comes to swallow its own exponents. 

These excesses in theory are precisely what nourish the paradox dis- 
cerned by Mannheim, a paradox Mannheim himself reached by a mere 
i-pistemological extension of Marxism. Put in general epistemological 
terms, the paradox of Mannheim may be expressed in the following ways: 
what is the epistemological status of discourse about ideology if all discourse 
is ideological? How can this discourse escape its own exposition, its own 
description? If sociopolitical thought itself is entwined with the life situa- 
tion of the thinker, does not the concept of ideology have to be absored 
into its own referent? Mannheim himself, as we shall see later, fought for 
a nonevaluative concept of ideology, but he ended with an ethical and 
epistemological relativism. 5 Mannheim claims to present the truth about 
ideology, and yet he leaves us with a difficult paradox. He destroys the 
dogmatism of theory by establishing its relativistic implications (as situa- 
tionally bound), but he fails to apply this relativity self-referentially to his 
own theory. Mannheim's claim to truth about ideology is itself relative. 
This is the difficult paradox that we are forced to confront. 

One way to contend with this paradox, however, may be to question the 
premises on which it is based . Perhaps the problem of Mannheim's paradox 
lies in its epistemological extension of a Marxism founded upon the contrast 
between ideology and science. If the basis of sociopolitical thought is 
grounded elsewhere, perhaps we can extricate ourselves from this paradox 
of Mannheim's. I wonder, then, whether we need not set aside the concept 
of ideology as opposed to science and return to what may be the most 
primitive concept of ideology, that opposed to praxis. This will be my own 
line of analysis, to establish that the opposition between ideology and 
science is secondary in comparison to the more fundamental opposition 
between ideology and real social life, between ideology and praxis. In fact, 
I want to claim not only that the latter relation is prior to the former, but 


Introductory Lecture 

that the very nature of the ideology-praxis relationship must be recast. 
Most basic to the ideology-praxis contrast is not opposition ; what is most 
fundamental is not the distortion or dissimulation of praxis by ideology. 
Rather, most basic is an inner connection between the two terms. 

I anticipated these remarks earlier in considering the concrete example 
of people living in situations of class conflicts. How can people live these 
conflicts — about work, property, money, and so on — if they do not already 
possess some symbolic systems to help them interpret the conflicts? Is nut 
the process of interpretation so primitive that in fact it is constitutive of 
the dimension of praxis? If social reality did not already have a social 
dimension, and therefore, if ideology, in a less polemical or less negatively 
evaluative sense, were not constitutive of social existence but merely dis- 
torting and dissimulating, then the process of distortion could not start. 
The process of distortion is grafted onto a symbolic function. Only because 
the structure of human social life is already symbolic can it be distorted. 
If it were not symbolic from the start, it could not be distorted. The 
possibility of distortion is a possibility opened up only by this function. 

What kind of function can precede distortion? On this question I must 
say I am very impressed with an essay by Clifford Geertz, "Ideology as a 
Cultural System," which appears in his book, The Interpretation of Cul- 
tures. I first read this essay after having written on ideology myself, 6 and 
I am thus greatly interested in the conjunction of our thought. Geertz 
claims that Marxist and non-Marxist sociologists have in common an at- 
tention only to the determinants of ideology, that is, to what causes and 
promotes it. What these sociologists avoid asking, however, is how ideology 
operates. They do not ask how ideology functions, they do not question 
how a social interest, for example, can be "expressed" in a thought, an 
image, or a conception of life. The deciphering of whatever strange alchemy 
there may be in the transformation of an interest into an idea is for Geertz, 
then, the problem evaded or overlooked by Marxists and non-Marxists 
alike. Geertz's explicit comments about one of these approaches may be 
applied to both : while the Marxist theory of class struggle and the American 
conception of strain may be diagnostically convincing, functionally they 
are not (207). 7 I think Geertz's distinction is accurate. These sociologies 
may offer good diagnoses of social illness. But the question of function, 
that is, how an illness really works, is finally the most important issue. 
These theories fail, says Geertz, because they have overlooked "the auton- 
omous process of symbolic formulation" (207). Again the question to be 

Introductory Lecture 


raised, therefore, is how can an idea arise from praxis if praxis does not 
^mediately nave a symbolic dimension? 

\ s I shall discuss more fully in a subsequent lecture, Geertz himself 
attempts to address this problem by introducing the conceptual framework 
of rhetoric within the sociology of culture or, as the German tradition 
would put it, the sociology of knowledge. He thinks that what is lacking 
in the sociology of culture is a significant appreciation of the rhetoric of 
litjures, t hat is to say, the elements of "style" — metaphors, analogies, 
ironies, ambiguities, puns, paradoxes, hyperboles (209) — which are at 
work in society just as much as in literary texts. Geertz's own aim is to 
transfer some of the important insights achieved in the field of literary 
criticism to the field of the sociology of culture. Perhaps only by attention 
to the cultural process of symbolic formulation may we avoid giving our- 
selves over to the pejorative description of ideology merely as "bias, over- 
simplification, emotive language, and adaption to public prejudice," de- 
scriptions all taken not from Marxists but from American sociologists. 8 

The blindness of both Marxists and non-Marxists to what precedes the 
distorting aspects of ideology is a blindness to what Geertz calls "symbolic 
action" (208). Geertz borrows this expression from Kenneth Burke, 9 and 
as we have seen, it is not by chance that the expression comes from literary 
criticism and is then applied to social action. The concept of symbolic 
action is notable because it emphasizes description of social processes more 
by tropes — stylistic figures — than by labels. Geertz warns that if we do 
not master the rhetoric of public discourse, then we cannot articulate the 
expressive power and the rhetorical force of social symbols. 

Similar understandings have been advanced in other fields, for example, 
in the theory of models (which I studied earlier within the framework of 
another set of lectures). 10 In a basic sense these developments all have the 
same perspective, namely that we cannot approach perception without also 
projecting a network of patterns, a network, Geertz would say, of templates 
or blueprints (216) through which we articulate our experience. We have 
to articulate our social experience in the same way that we have to articulate 
our perceptual experience. Just as models in scientific language allow us 
to see how things look, allow us to see things as this or that, in the same 
way our social templates articulate our social roles, articulate our position 
in society as this or that. And perhaps it is not possible to go behind or 
below this primitive structuration. The very flexibility of our biological 
existence makes necessary another kind of informational system, the cul- 


Introductory Lecture 

tural system. Because we have no genetic system of information for human 
behavior, we need a cultural system. No culture exists without such a 
system. The hypothesis, therefore, is that where human beings exist, a 
nonsymbolic mode of existence, and even less, a nonsymbolic kind of 
action, can no longer obtain. Action is immediately ruled by cultural 
patterns which provide templates or blueprints for the organization of 
social and psychological processes, perhaps just as genetic codes — I am 
not certain 11 — provide such templates for the organization of organic pro- 
cesses (216). In the same way that our experience of the natural world 
requires a mapping, a mapping is also necessary for our experience of social 

Our attention to the functioning of ideology at this most basic and 
symbolic level demonstrates the real constitutive role ideology has in social 
existence. Another step remains, however, in our investigation of the nature 
of ideology. We have followed the Marxist concept of ideology to the 
paradox of Mannheim and have then tried to extricate ourselves from the 
paradox by returning to a more primitive function of ideology. We still 
need to determine, however, the connecting link between the Marxist 
concept of ideology as distortion and the integrative concept of ideology 
found in Geertz. How is it possible that ideology plays these two roles, the 
very primitive role of integration of a community and the role of distortion 
of thought by interests? 

I wonder whether the turning point is, as Max Weber has suggested, the 
use of authority in a given community. We may agree with Geertz, at least 
as a hypothesis, that the organic processes of life are ruled by some genetic 
systems (216). As we have seen, however, the flexibility of our biological 
existence makes necessary a cultural system to help organize our social 
processes. The guidance of the genetic system is most lacking and the need 
for the cultural system consequently most dramatic precisely at the point 
where the social order raises the problem of the legitimation of the existing 
system of leadership. The legitimation of a leadership confronts us with 
the problem of authority, domination, and power, the problem of the 
hierarchization of social life. Ideology has a most significant role here. 
While it may be diffused when considered merely as integrative, its place- 
in social life is marked by a special concentration. This privileged place of 
ideological thinking occurs in politics; there the questions of legitimation 
arise. Ideology's role is to make possible an autonomous politics by pro- 
viding the needed authoritative concepts that make it meaningful (218). 

Introductory Lecture 


In analyzing this question of the legitimation of authority, I use the work 
of Max Weber. No other sociologist has meditated to such a degree on the 
problem of authority. Weber's own discussion focuses on the concept of 
jlerrschaft. The concept has been translated into English as both authority 
and domination, and its cogency stems precisely from the fact that it means 
the pair. In a given group, says Weber, as soon as a differentiation appears 
between a governing body and the rest of the group, the governing body 
has both the power of leadership and the power to implement order by 
means of force. (Weber typifies the latter in particular as the essential 
attribute of the state. ) Ideology enters here because no system of leadership, 
even the most brutal, rules only by force, by domination. Every system of 
leadership summons not only our physical submission but also our consent 
and cooperation. Every system of leadership wants its rule to rest not 
merely on domination, then ; it also wants its power to be granted because 
its authority is legitimate. It is ideology's role to legitimate this authority. 
More exactly, while ideology serves, as I have already said, as the code of 
interpretation that secures integration, it does so by justifying the present 
system of authority. 

Ideology's role as a legitimating force persists because, as Weber has 
shown, no absolutely rational system of legitimacy exists. This is true even 
of those systems claiming to have brokencompletely with both the authority 
of tradition and that of any charismatic leader. Possibly no system of 
authority can break completely with such primitive and archaic figures of 
authority. Even the most bureaucratized system of authority constitutes 
some code to satisfy our belief in its legitimacy. In a later lecture, I shall 
give specific examples of the way Weber describes the typology of authority 
according to the system of legitimacy each type describes. 

To maintain that no totally rational system of authority exists is not 
merely historical judgment or prediction, however. The very structure of 
legitimation itself ensures the necessary role of ideology. Ideology must 
bridge the tension that characterizes the legitimation process, a tension 
between the claim to legitimacy made by the authority and the belief in 
this legitimacy offered by the citizenry. The tension occurs because while 
the citizenry's belief and the authority's claim should correspond at the 
same level, the equivalence of belief with claim is never totally actual but 
rather always more or less a cultural fabrication. Thus, there is always 
more in the authority's claim to legitimacy than in the beliefs actually held 
by the group members. 

Introductory Lecture 

This discrepancy between claim and belief may mark the real source of 
what Marx called surplus- value (Mehrwert). Surplus-value is not neces- 
sarily intrinsic to the structure of production, but it is necessary to the 
structure of power. In socialist systems, for example, although no private 
appropriation of the means of production is permitted, surplus- value still 
exists because of the structure of power. This structure of power poses the 
same question as all others, a question of belief. Believe in me, the political 
leader exhorts. The difference between the claim made and the belief 
offered signifies the surplus-value common to all structures of power. In 
its claim to legitimacy, every authority asks for more than what its members' 
offer in terms of belief or creed. Whatever role surplus- value may have in 
production is not at all denied ; the point is rather to expand the notion of 
surplus-value and demonstrate that its most persisting location may be in 
the structure of power. 

The problem we are facing descends to us from Hobbes: what is the 
rationality and irrationality of the social contract; what do we give and 
what do we receive? In this exchange, the system of justification, of legi- 
timation, plays a continuing ideological role. The problem of the legiti- 
mation of authority places us at the turning point between a neutral concept 
of integration and a political concept of distortion. The degradation, the 
alteration, and the diseases of ideology may originate in our relation to the 
existing system of authority in our society. Ideology moves beyond mere 
integration to distortion and pathology as it tries to bridge the tension 
between authority and domination. Ideology tries to secure integration 
between legitimacy claim and belief, but it does so by justifying the existing 
system of authority as it is. Weber's analysis of the legitimation of authority 
reveals a third, mediating role for ideology. The legitimation function of 
ideology is the connecting link between the Marxist concept of ideology as 
distortion and the integrative concept of ideology found in Geertz. 

This concludes the summary of the problems of ideology to be explored 
in the balance of my lectures. The lectures on ideology proceed in the 
following order. 12 My starting point is the role of ideology as distortion as 
expressed in the writings of the young Marx. This inquiry is shaped by 
sections from the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right," the Economic 
and Philosophic Manuscripts, and The German Ideology. I then explore 
the writings of the contemporary French Marxist Louis Althusser; my 
principal texts are his books For Marx and Lenin and Philosophy. Attention 
to a portion of Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia follows, although 

Introductory Lecture 

J 5 

a rt of our investigation of Mannheim's book awaits the discussion of 
Utopia- In turning to Max Weber and parts of his Economy and Society, 
fliy c hief consideration is the role of ideology in the legitimation of systems 
of authority. Discussion of Jurgen Habermas, mainly through readings in 
f^jiffwledge and Human Interests, follows Weber. The ideology section of 
the lectures ends with an analysis of ideology's integrative function. Here 
I rely on Geertz, principally his article "Ideology as a Cultural System," 
and also offer some comments of my own. 

In shifting from ideology to Utopia, 13 I want in this first lecture only to 
sketch the landscape of Utopia's conceptual framework. As I said at the 
beginning of this lecture, there seems to be no transition from ideology to 
Utopia. An exception may be the treatment of Utopia afforded by a scientific 
sociology, particularly the orthodox Marxist version. Because it is nonscien- 
tific, Utopia is characterized by Marxists as itself ideological. This reduction 
is atypical, however. When ideology and Utopia are considered phenome- 
nologically, that is, when a descriptive approach takes into account the 
meaningfulness of what is presented, then ideology and Utopia belong to 
two distinct semantic genres. 

Utopia in particular distinguishes itself by being a declared genre. Per- 
haps this is a good place to commence our comparison of ideology and 
Utopia: works exist which call themselves Utopias while no author claims 
that his or her work is an ideology. Thomas More coined the word "utopia" 
as a title for his famous book written in 1516. As we know, the word means 
what is nowhere; it is the island which is nowhere, the place which exists 
in no real place. In its very self-description, therefore, the Utopia knows 
itself as a Utopia and claims to be a Utopia. The Utopia is a very personal 
and idiosyncratic work, the distinctive creation of its author. In contrast, 
no proper name is affixed to an ideology as its author. Any name joined to 
an ideology is anonymous; its subject is simply das Man, the amorphous 

Nevertheless, I wonder whether we cannot structure the problem of 
Utopia exactly as we structured the problem of ideology. That is to say, 
can we not start from a quasi-pathological concept of Utopia and proceed 
downward to some function comparable precisely to the integrative func- 
tion of ideology? To my mind, this function is achieved exactly by the 
notion of the nowhere. Perhaps a fundamental structure of the reflexivity 
we may apply to our social roles is the ability to conceive of an empty place 
from which to look at ourselves. 


Introductory Lecture 

To unearth this functional structure of Utopia, however, we must go 
beyond or below the specific contents of particular Utopias. Utopias speak 
to so many divergent topics — the status of the family, the consumption of 
goods, the appropriation of things, the organization of public life, the role 
of religion, and so on — that it is extremely difficult to fit them within a 
simple framework. In fact, if we consider Utopias according to their con- 
tents, we even find opposing Utopias. Concerning the family, for example, 
some Utopias legitimate all kinds of sexual community, while others endorse 
monasticism. With regard to consumption, some Utopias advocate asceti- 
cism, while others promote a more sumptuous lifestyle. So we cannot 
define Utopias commonly by their concepts. In the absence of Utopia's 
thematic unity, we must seek unity in its function. 

I thus propose to move beyond the thematic contents of Utopia to its 
functional structure. I suggest that we start from the kernel idea of the 
nowhere, implied by the word "utopia" itself and by the descriptions of 
Thomas More: a place which exists in no real place, a ghost city; a river 
with no water; a prince with no people, and so on. What must be empha- 
sized is the benefit of this special extraterritoriality. From this "no place'' 
an exterior glance is cast on our reality, which suddenly looks strange, 
nothing more being taken for granted. The field of the possible is now 
open beyond that of the actual; it is a field, therefore, for alternative ways 
of living. 

This development of new, alternative perspectives defines Utopia's most 
basic function. May we not say then that imagination itself — through its 
Utopian function — has a constitutive role in helping us rethink the nature 
of our social life? Is not Utopia — this leap outside — the way in which we 
radically rethink what is family, what is consumption, what is authority, 
what is religion, and so on? Does not the fantasy of an alternative society 
and its exteriorization "nowhere" work as one of the most formidable 
contestations of what is? If I were to compare this structure of Utopia with 
a theme in the philosophy of imagination, which I am now studying 
elsewhere, 14 I would say it is like Husserl's imaginative variations concern- 
ing an essence. Utopia introduces imaginative variations on the topics of 
society, power, government, family, religion. The kind of neutralization 
that constitutes imagination as fiction is at work in Utopia. Thus I propose 
that Utopia, taken at this radical level, as the function of the nowhere in 
the constitution of social or symbolic action, is the counterpart of our first 
concept of ideology. There is no social integration without social subver- 

Introductory Lecture 

ion we may say. The reflexivity of the process of integration occurs by 
neans of the process of subversion. The nowhere puts the cultural system 
a distance; we see our cultural system from the outside precisely thanks 
to this nowhere. 

What confirms this hypothesis that the most radical function of Utopia 
is inseparable from the most radical function of ideology is that the turning 
point of both is in fact at the same place, that is to say, in the problem of 
authority. If every ideology tends finally to legitimate a system of authority, 
does not every Utopia, the moment of the other, attempt to come to grips 
with the problem of power itself? What is ultimately at stake in Utopia is 
not so much consumption, family, or religion but the use of power in all 
these institutions. Is it not because a credibility gap exists in all systems of 
legitimation, all authority, that a place for Utopia exists too? In other words, 
is it not the function of Utopia to expose the credibility gap wherein all 
systems of authority exceed, as I tried to say earlier, both our confidence 
in them and our belief in their legitimacy? Quite possibly, then, the turning 
point of ideology from its integrative to its distorting function is also the 
turning point of the Utopian system. So I am very attentive to the function 
of power, authority, and domination in Utopia; I question who has power 
in a given Utopia and how the problem of power is subverted by the Utopia. 

Though a more uncertain hypothesis, it is also quite possible that ide- 
ology and Utopia become pathological at the same point, in the sense that 
the pathology of ideology is dissimulation whereas the pathology of Utopia 
is escape. The nowhere of Utopia may become a pretext for escape, a way 
of fleeing the contradictions and ambiguity both of the use of power and 
of the assumption of authority in a given situation. This escapism of Utopia 
belongs to a logic of all or nothing. No connecting point exists between the 
"here" of social reality and the "elsewhere" of the Utopia. This disjunction 
allows the Utopia to avoid any obligation to come to grips with the real 
difficulties of a given society. All the regressive trends denounced so often 
in Utopian thinkers — such as the nostalgia for the past, for some paradise 
lost — proceed from this initial deviation of the nowhere in relation to the 
here and now. So my problematic, which I do not want to anticipate any 
further, is: does not the eccentric function of imagination as the possiblity 
of the nowhere imply all the paradoxes of Utopia; further, is not this 
eccentricity of the Utopian imagination at the same time the cure of the 
pathology of ideological thinking, which has its blindness and narrowness 
precisely in its inability to conceive of a nowhere? 


Introductory Lecture 

The next lecture begins with the young Marx and discusses passages 
from the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right" and the Economic ami 
Philosophic Manuscripts. My interest as we enter the section of lectures on 
ideology is in exploring the opposition between ideology and praxis in the 
young Marx that precedes the opposition prevailing in later Marxism 
between ideology and science. 




Marx: The Critique of Hegel 
and the Manuscripts 

In this lecture I want to start my discussion of the first concept of ideology 
in the young Marx. I shall develop the general theme that the first concept 
of ideology in Marx is determined not by its opposition to science, as will 
be the case in the later development of Marxist doctrine, but by its oppo- 
sition to reality. (W e might say an opposition to Marxist science is actually 
impossible at this time, because during the 1843-44 period we are dis- 
cussing, Marxist science does not yet even exist!) In his early works, Marx's 
task is to determine what is the real. This determination will affect the 
concept of ideology, since ideology is all that is not this reality. The 
development in these early works encompasses the difficult progression, 
completed only in The German Ideology, toward the identification between 
reality and human praxis. So Marx's early writings are a movement toward 
this identification between reality and praxis and, consequently, toward 
the constitution of the opposition between praxis and ideology. 

A principal element in the development of the first Marxist concept of 
ideology is its extrication from a Feuerbachian anthropology. Feuerbach 
centered his anthropology around the concept of Gattungswesen, which 
has been translated into English as "generic essence" or "species being." 
Marx's struggle to extricate himself from the Feuerbachian anthropology 
is most significant, because as long as the concept of human reality as 
Gattungswesen, as species being, has not been reduced to empirical praxis, 
the concept of ideology itself will not have received its appropriate contrary 
and consequently its own appropriate content. The writings of the early 
Marx may be seen, then, as a progressive reduction of the Hegelian "Spirit" 
(Geist) through the Feuerbachian concept of species being to the properly 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

Marxist concept of praxis. Thus we have already a good example of what 
Marx will consider an ideological critique of a concept: the critique is a 
reduction, a reduction of the concept to its basis, to its concrete basis of 
existence. The question of what is this concrete basis is the problem at 
stake in these early works. Ideology will appear as the shadow world that 
praxis both expels from its sphere and at the same time generates from 
within itself. As we shall see, this is the difficulty of the Marxist concept 
of ideology: on the one hand ideology is excluded from the concrete basis 
of existence, but on the other hand it is somehow ineluctably generated 
from this basis at the same time. 

In my initial lectures on Marx, I shall survey the progression in Marx's 
texts that leads to the development of his concept of ideology, a concept 
itself not reached until The German Ideology. The first important writing 
for this inquiry is the Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right, " written in 
1843. This manuscript has had a very strange history, becoming known 
only in 1922 and first published only in 1927. The excellent English 
translation we use is by Joseph O'Malley, who offers a very good intro- 
duction to the work also. The text as a whole is a discussion of paragraphs 
261-313 of Hegel's Philosophy of Right. 

In addition to this originally unpublished manuscript, Marx wrote an 
important introduction to a proposed revision of the Critique, an essay 
actually published during Marx's lifetime. This essay appeared in 1844 in 
the Deutsch-franzosische Jahrbucher under the title, "A Contribution to 
the Critique of Hegel's 'Philosophy of Right' — Introduction." The book 
edited by O'Malley includes both this proposed introduction and the 
longer, originally unpublished essay. The intended introduction was well 
known and is one of the most famous of Marx's writings. In fact I shall 
start from this introduction and then return to the text itself, because it 
gives us the clue to the philosophical program of Marx. 

Marx begins this introduction with the famous sentence: "For Germany 
the critique of religion is essentially completed; and the critique of religion 
is the prerequisite of every critique" (131). In saying this, Marx is sup- 
ported by previous work — the work of Feuerbach. In claiming that "the 
critique of religion is essentially completed," Marx is referring directly to 
Feuerbach. So in Marx the critique of religion is something imported. He 
considers this critique complete and something to which he need not return. 
What is even more important, though, is the second part of the first 
sentence: "the critique of religion is the prerequisite of every critique." 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 


This striking declaration provides us with a most appropriate starting point. 
Here we have the model for any critique of ideology. For Feuerbach religion 
is the paradigm of all reversal, and as I mentioned in my introductory 
lecture, the first concept of ideology in Marx is constituted precisely ac- 
cording to this model. Something has been inverted in human conscious- 
ness, and we have to invert the inversion; this is the procedure of the 

This paradigm of inverted consciousness is clearly evident on the first 
page of the introduction: 

The foundation of irreligious criticism is this: man makes religion; religion does 
not make man. Religion is, in fact, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man 
w ho has either not yet gained himself or has lost himself again. But man is no 
abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, the state, 
society. This state, this society, produce religion, which is an inverted world 
consciousness. . . . 

I emphasize those last few words. While the word "ideology" is not yet 
pronounced and will not be used by Marx before The German Ideology, 
the model of reasoning is already present. Marx continues: 

This state, this society, produce religion, which is an inverted world consciousness, 
because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its 
encyclopedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritualistic point d'hon- 
neur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement, its universal basis 
of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human 
being. . . . 

Notice this idea of the "fantastic realization." But of what? — "The human 
being." So at this stage Marx has a very abstract concept of human reality. 

[Religion] is the fantastic realization of the human being because the human being 
has attained no true reality. Thus, the struggle against religion is indirectly the 
struggle against that world of which religion is the spiritual aroma. (131) 

This text is typically Feuerbachian. It is not yet Marxist except for its 
practical conclusion: a "call to abandon a condition which requires illu- 
sions." So already there is some displacement toward the social conditions 
which really make human reality possible. 

I think we must insist on the vocabulary, the semantic gradients of this 
text which says: "man makes religion." Marx already has the model of a 
praxis that has been inverted. Yet while Marx transfers the problem from 
the sphere of representation to that of production, at this point production 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

is still a matter of "self-consciousness," "world consciousness," "self-es- 
teem," which all imply an idealistic concept of consciousness, a remnant 
of the Hegelian Spirit. Nevertheless, at this stage in Marx's work con- 
sciousness is the appropriate locus, because it is there, Marx says, that the 
fabulous production, the "fantastic realization of the human being," takes 

Thus within this framework Marx has already raised his major opposi- 
tions, using a type of thought and even a rhetoric that is striking. Notice 
the abrupt antitheses in the text between "man . . . [as] abstract being" 
and "man . . . [as] the world of man, the state, society," between "fantastic 
realization" and "true reality." These antitheses are strengthened a few 
lines later in the following famous image: "Criticism has plucked the 
imaginary flowers from the chain, not so that man shall bear the chain 
without fantasy or consolation, but so that he shall cast off the chain and 
gather the living flower" (131-32). The living flower of real life is juxta- 
posed to the illusory flowers, the merely decorative function, of religious 

Sometimes this reversal is even presented in Kantian terms, as a kind of 
continuance, a development, of the Copernican revolution. For example, 
Marx says, "The critique of religion disillusions man so that he will think, 
act, and fashion his reality as a man who has lost his illusions and regained 
his reason, so that he will revolve about himself as his own true sun." 
Reason is still an important counterpoint to fantasy; the invocation of 
reason is an appeal to rationalism. This is typically Kantian in its language. 
The quotation concludes, "Religion is only the illusory sun about which 
man revolves so long as he does not revolve about himself" (132). Human 
individuals have to center themselves once more around themselves. Marx's 
orientation is still in the shadow of German idealism, which put human 
consciousness and autonomy at the top of the universe. In fact, the ultimate 
stage of this recovery of the autonomy and self-assertion of consciousness 
is a kind of atheism. It is an idealistic atheism, since human self -conscious- 
ness is the center of this reassertion of human being. We may say that a 
humanistic anthropology is being expressed. The concept of human being 
presented here remains abstract in a way The German Ideology will call 

This, then, is Marx's starting point, given to him by Feuerbach. Marx 
takes up a problem that he was not the first to identify, but he understands 
his particular task as the extension of this critique from religion to law and 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 


It is the task of history, therefore [i.e., what Marx finds to be his own task after 
Feuerbach], once the other-world of truth has vanished, to establish the truth of 
this world. It is above all the task of philosophy, which is in the service of history, 
to unmask human self-alienation in its secular forms, once its sacred form has been 
unmasked. Thus, the critique of heaven is transformed into the critique of the 
earth the critique of religion into the critique of law, the critique of law into the 
critique of politics. (132) 

Why, though, this shift from the critique of theology to the critique of 
politics, from heaven to earth? Because for Marx, German politics was 
anachronistic, especially in comparison with France and England, where 
bourgeois revolutions had already developed. In Germany's political situ- 
ation, where its people did not change and seemingly could not change 
their politics and economics, philosophy became the retreat in which the 
Germans did their reflective work. They elaborated a philosophy which 
was both the expression of this anachronism and its reinforcement. 

Just as ancient peoples lived their past history in their imagination, in mythology 
[we see the word imagination which interests me here], so we Germans have lived 
our future history in thought, in philosophy. We are philosophical contemporaries 
of the present day without being its historical contemporaries. German philosophy 
is the ideal prolongation of German history. (135) 

Notice the phrase "ideal prolongation." Again, while the world "ideology" 
is not uttered, the elements of the concept are already gathered. 

Marx applies this idea of the "ideal prolongation" to the relations of 
Germans to their history. It is the same structure that Feuerbach applied 
to Christianity in its relation to the Western world as a whole. The kernel 
of Germany's anachronistic philosophy, says Marx, is the philosophy of 
the state, political philosophy, in particular the political philosophy of 
Hegel. This political philosophy is the source of nourishment for what 
Marx called Germany's "dream history": "Thus, the German nation is 
obliged to connect its dream history with its present circumstances, and 
subject to criticism not only these circumstances but also their abstract 
continuation" (136). While Marx's philosophical vocabulary may be loose 
in equating such terms as "mythology," "dream history," "imagination," 
and "ideal prolongation," these terms do reinforce one another. They are 
set out not because of their differences, their distinctions, but because of 
their accumulative power. These phrases have an unmistakable accumu- 
lative power. 

What is under attack in Marx's political philosophy is a speculative 
philosophy of right in which we proceed from the idea of the state toward 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

its components. For Marx this will be the model of ideological thinking, a 
movement from the idea to reality and not from reality toward the idea. 

If it was only in Germany that the speculative philosophy of right was possible 

this abstract and extravagant thought about the modern state, whose reality remains 
in another world (even though this is just across the Rhine) [Marx is speaking here 
of the development of the French Revolution] — the German thought-version (Ge. 
danhenbild [the world view]) of the modern state, on the other hand, which 
abstracts from actual man [this is ideology], was only possible because and in so 
far as the modern state itself abstracts from actual man, or satisfies the whole man 
only in an imaginary way. In politics the Germans have thought what other nations 
have done. Germany was their theoretical conscience. (137) 

Marx's statement is a very good approach to the concept of ideology, since 
the abstraction of the state in a speculative philosophy of right expresses 
the fact that the existing state is itself an abstraction from life. A kind of 
historical ideology is at work, something the philosopher merely reflects in 
a theory of the state. Once again the oppositions are clarified: "abstract 
thought" versus "reality"; "thought-version" (Gedankenbild) versus "ac- 
tual man" ; imaginary abstraction versus what Marx calls the "actual man" 
or the "whole man." As we shall see, this notion of the "whole man" is 
basically derived from the concept of Gattungswesen in Feuerbach. 

I shall not discuss in any detail the conclusion of this introduction, but 
it is important to see how the turning point of the analysis is resolved. 
Marx concludes that the only critique which can change reality is a critique 
not by means of words and ideas, such as the critique made by the left 
Hegelians, who remain speculative thinkers, but a critique involving con- 
crete praxis. More particularly, Marx claims, this concrete, practical cri- 
tique is actualized only when supported by a class of the society which 
represents universality. The dimension of universality is transferred from 
the sphere of thought to an actual class, that class which is universal because 
it has nothing; having nothing, it is everything. The first Marxist concept 
of the proletariat is constructed in this way. Here, we should note, the 
concept is abstract, since the proletariat is said to be the class which has 
no particular interests but, because deprived of everything, therefore rep- 
resents the real interests of society as a whole. 

This concept of the proletariat is abstract in a way that will appear 
ideological for the mature Marx. At this stage, the proletariat is a construct ; 
Marx claims a place for the needs of the universal class that succeeds the 
place occupied by universal thought. "Revolutions require a passive ele- 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 


a material basis. Theory will be realized in a people only in so far as 
'" "'the realization of their needs" (138). A page further: "A radical 
olution can only be a revolution of radical needs, whose preconditions 
and birthplaces appear to be lacking" (139). The concept of need, which 

as already in a sense Hegelian, replaces that of universal thought. Radical 
need replaces radical thought. Once more, the opposition is between the 
abstract activity of thought and actual struggle. This emphasis leads to the 
famous development of a "class with radical chains, a class in civil society 
that is not of civil society, an estate that is the dissolution of all estates, a 
sphere of society having a universal character . . ." (141). As we can see, 
the concept is basically a construct; it is not at all a sociological description. 
Despite the claim that the proletariat replaces universal thought, the pro- 
letariat is still a philosophical concept. Marx ends this dense and strenuous 
introduction by linking the real emancipation of the whole society, its 
"positive possibility," to a class which would be a class with radical chains, 
a class "that can claim no traditional title but only a human title . . ." 
(141). The abstract idea of humanity, taken from Feuerbach, is the con- 
tinuing anthropological support for the entire analysis. 

From this introduction we may derive the main method that Marx will 
apply in the body of the Critique itself. Joseph O'Malley defines this method 
as transformative. 1 The expression is a good one. Marx's method is close 
to that applied by Feuerbach to religion: it is a reductive method, a 
reduction of the abstract world of representation, of thoughts, to its con- 
crete, empirical basis, an overthrow of mystical speculation. The reduction 
is the reversal of a reversal, since it proceeds by taking all those entities 
that have been falsely projected upwards — the eternal, the logical, the 
transcendent, the abstract, the divine, whatever they may be — and reduc- 
ing these projections to their initial basis. The model is Feuerbachian, 
expressed in the logic of Hegel as the substitution of the subject for the 
predicate. While in actuality humanity is the subject and the divine a 
predicate — that is, a projection of human thought — religion transforms 
this divine predicate into a subject, a god, and the human becomes a 
predicate of this absolute subject. The reductive process transforms this 
false subject into the predicate of the real subject. Exactly who is the real 
subject, though, is precisely the problem faced by the young Marx. The 
whole work of the young Marx is a fight for the real subject of this predicate 
which has been projected upwards. We shall see later that Marx's concept 
of ideology depends on just this model of projection. The reversal becomes 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

the general method for dissolving illusions, and the transformative method 
will expose ideology as an illusory reversal itself needing to be reversed 
and so dissolved. Marx's task is to achieve in his critique of philosophy 
what Feuerbach accomplished in his critique of theology: the reestablish- 
ment of the primacy of the finite, the concrete, the real. 

Turning from Marx's published introduction to his longer, unpublished 
essay, I shall take a small section of this text as paradigmatic of Marx's 
critique of Hegel. I shall focus on Marx's critique of paragraph 262 of the 
Philosophy of Right. Marx quotes this paragraph, which reads: 

The actual Idea is mind [Geist], which, sundering itself into the two ideal spheres 
of its concept, family and civil society, enters upon its finite phase, but it does so 
only in order to rise above its ideality and become explicit as infinite actual mind. 
(We see a movement of the idea in its finite expression. The "actual Idea" firiishes 
its circle and returns to itself in the constitution and in the self-consciousness of 
the citizens who adhere to the spirit of the constitution.] It is therefore to these 
ideal spheres that the actual Idea assigns the material of this its finite actuality, 
viz., human beings as a mass, in such a way that the function assigned to any given 
individual is visibly mediated by circumstances, his caprice and his personal choice 
of his station in life. (7)* 

This paragraph is easy to fight against, since it is abstracted from the 
development of Hegel's text. Nevertheless it appeared to Marx as the model 
of all speculative thinking, since Hegel derives the institutions of existing 
political bodies from an idea. We perhaps should be more careful than 
Marx, though, in determining what Hegel means by the "actual idea." 
(Unlike the given translation, I translate "idea" without the capital "I." I 
am not sure it deserves the capitalization.) Particularly we should decipher 
the meaning of the word "actual." Hegel calls the idea vrirkliche, actual, 
but in what sense? Not in the sense of empirical, but in the sense of 
working, of effective. In German, vnrklich is built on tvirken, which is to 
be active, to be efficient. Therefore the English "actual" translates wirkliche 
rather well, meaning not that being there, which would be Daseinde, but 
that being at work in history. In Hegel, then, the "actual idea" is neither 
an ideal, as in Plato, nor an empirical given, as say for Machiavelli; it is 
rather something working through history as a germ, which has both reality 
and rationality. The idea is not an ideal; on the contrary, as the quotation 
above suggests, only the family and civil society are ideal in the sense that 
they are abstractions of this concrete entity, which in Hegel is the state, as 
the institutional embodiment of the Volksgeist. 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 29 

Marx, though, did not recognize this very complex status of the idea in 
Hegel For Marx, to speak of the wirkliche Idee, the actual idea, is to 
j eC t something somewhere above us (like for Feuerbach the god of 
religion) as an infinite actual mind or "Spirit." As a consequence, Marx 
savs the real institutions of actual human life — the family and civil soci- 

ct y .become mere receptacles or appearances of the idea, incarnations of 

a n alien reality which floats above it. Let us read the part of Marx's critique 
that gives the flavor of the whole: 

The so-called "actual Idea" (mind as infinite and actual) is described as though it 
acted according to a determined principle and toward a determined end. It sunders 
itself into finite spheres, and does this "in order to return to itself, to be for ilself"; 
moreover it does this precisely in such a way that it is just as it actually is. 
In this passage the logical, pantheistic mysticism appears very clearly. (7) 

I should add to this that Marx's critique here starts with the sentence, "Let 
us translate this into prose." He takes Hegel's commentary as a kind of 
poetic text, something that must be translated. (The emphasis on the need 
for translation recurs frequently; see, for example, page 16: "Now let's 
translate this entire paragraph into common language as follows. . . .") 
Marx attempts a reduction of speculation. At this time, though, the re- 
duction is not to political economy but to ordinary experience. Ordinary 
experience itself tells us that the state is not (as it was for Hegel) some 
embodiment of the "actual idea" but that in fact citizens live in states which 
have censorship, torture, and so on. The movement is from the idea to 
ordinary experience, even if ordinary experience is not yet framed within 
a new theoretical framework. Marx's objection to "pantheistic mysticism" 
(another word for ideology) is therefore this: 

Actuality is not expressed as itself but as another reality. Ordinary empirical 
existence does not have its own mind (Geist) but rather an alien mind as its law, 
while on the other hand the actual Idea does not have an actuality which is developed 
out of itself, but rather has ordinary empirical existence as its existence. (8) 

The word for existence here is Dasein, which means what is there, Da-sein. 
In contrast to what is only thought, Marx emphasizes what is actually 

there . 

The kinship with Feuerbach is transparent. Marx has no difficulty trans- 
posing his own language into that of the subject-predicate relation. 

The Idea is given the status of a subject [i.e., the one who bears the predicate], 
and the actual relationship of family and civil society to the state is conceived to be 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

its inner imaginary activity. Family and civil society are the presuppositions of the 
state; they are the really active things; but in speculative philosophy it is reversed. 

Again notice the concept of reversal, which I put as the central, leading 
thread of all these analyses: "but in speculative philosophy it is reversed." 
Once more we have the reversal of a reversal. The quotation concludes: 

But if the Idea is made subject [by Hegel], then the real subjects — civil society, 
family, circumstances, caprice, etc. — become unreal, and take on the different 
meaning of objective moments of the Idea. (8) 

Though its name is not raised, ideology already means this reversal of 
reality. The implications for our inquiry into the concept of ideology are 
not yet obvious, however, to the extent that the counterpart of ideology 
itself remains somewhat abstract: here the family and civil society appear 
as the active forces. At this stage Marx focuses more on the notion of 
reversal alone: "the conditions are established as the conditioned, the 
determining as the determined, the producing as the product of its [own] 
product." "The actual becomes phenomenon, but the Idea has no other 
content than this phenomenon" (9). 

Marx allows me to conclude my presentation of the Critique at this point, 
since he closes this discussion with the following sentence: "The entire 
mystery of the Philosophy of Right and of Hegelian philosophy in general 
is contained in these paragraphs" (9). Abstract though the model may be, 
the Critique establishes both the paradigm of reversal and the transfor- 
mative method that Marx will utilize, in increasingly concrete fashion, 
throughout his development of the concept of ideology. The vocabulary 
of the Critique may not be cautious; terms like "mystery," "mysticism," 
"abstraction," and "imaginary activity" are blended together. But what we 
must appreciate here is the cumulative power, not the discriminating 
function, of Marx's analysis. 

I have said enough, I believe, to present some of the major issues in 
Marx's Critique of Hegel's "Philosophy of Right." I would now like to 
provide an introduction to the text we shall examine in the next two 
lectures, the Economic and Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. Like the 
Critique, the Manuscripts became known only fairly recently, being first 
published in 1932. Also like the Critique, the Manuscripts do not directly 
consider the concept of ideology. In the German index, the word "ideology" 
does not even appear. The Manuscripts are of interest not for any depiction 
of the concept of ideology but rather for the elaboration of the opposite 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

ncept, for what is the concrete basis of human life as opposed to the 
Jeological construct. The concept of ideology will not be complete as long 

we do not know to what we oppose it, to what we have to contrast it. 

Most decisive here will be the struggle in the Manuscripts both with and 
a ainst the Feuerbachian concept of Gattungswesen, species being. I shall 

fact limit my discussion to those passages which wrestle with the concept 
of Gattungswesen. This wrestling is most important because if the concept 
of species being is a construct, then it must be treated as ideological itself. 
Recognition of this problem, finally, governs the emergence of the concept 
of ideology in The German Ideology, to which we shall turn in the fifth 
lecture. The German ideology Marx attacks there is no longer Hegel; that 
critique is done, it is over. Instead, Marx attacks precisely the left-wing 
Hegelians, including among them, Feuerbach. So a split occurs within the 
left wing of Hegelianism. We shall examine how Marx both uses, and at 
the same time dissolves from within, the Feuerbachian concept of humanity 
as a universal species present in every individual (perhaps as God is said 
to be in all creatures). The concept of reality, which provides the basic 
contrast for that of ideology, therefore remains uncertain as long as the 
species being of Feuerbach has not been unmasked as itself a shadow 
concept and as in fact a mere and poor rephrasing of the Hegelian Spirit, 
the Hegelian Geist. 

In The Poverty of Philosophy Marx says that Feuerbach finally is poorer 
than Hegel (164). This is true to the extent that Hegel is surely richer in 
content than Feuerbach. The critique of religion and the kind of atheism 
advocated by Feuerbach are in a basic sense the culmination of idealistic 
thought; they ultimately give to human consciousness divine power. Self- 
consciousness becomes the support of all predicates developed by the 
culture, predicates developed mainly through the fabric of religion. As the 
cornerstone of the whole structure and superstructure of culture, self- 
consciousness is the foremost idealistic concept. In Feuerbach everything 
happens within human consciousness, both its alienation and its emanci- 
pation; everything occurs, therefore, in the field of ideas, the field of 
representation. We have not left but instead have reinforced the Kantian 
and Fichtean assertion of the autonomy of consciousness. 

The fight against heteronomy, which started with Kant, finds its cul- 
mination in and so belongs to the same circle as Kantian philosophy. The 
claim that the human being is the measure of all things — a claim for 
autonomy versus heteronomy — is finally the central contention. Because 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

of this emphasis, sometimes I think that the idealistic concept of conscious- 
ness is by construction an atheistic concept. When placed in contrast to 
the assertion of radical autonomy, dependence is perhaps the only possible 
truth of religion, an avowal of an element of passivity in my existence, an 
avowal that in some ways I receive existence. As soon as I put autonomy 
at the top of the philosophical system, as soon as I promote to such an 
extent this Promethean dimension of autonomy, then surely autonomy 
becomes godlike itself. Because of Feuerbach's promotion of autonomy, 
heteronomy becomes evil by construction. Consequently, everything 
which is not autonomy is alienation. What is in fact the mystery here, to 
speak like Marx, is first, how a self-positing consciousness could lose its 
own control, could have its control alienated, and second, how this power, 
once alienated, could ever be reintegrated. A kind of magical history occurs, 
we may say. 

In the Manuscripts Marx preserves an ambiguous relation to Feuerbach. 
This ambiguity is especially acute in Marx's usage of the concept of human 
being. Stressing this usage will be key for our reading of Marx's text. 
Sometimes Marx describes the human being as the living individual, but 
at the same time he also maintains the properties that Feuerbach assigns 
to human being, that is to say, as the universal, the bearer of all conceivable 
qualities and their ideal representation. For Feuerbach, human being as 
species being is infinite, whereas individuals are only its finite expressions. 
We may say, therefore, that Feuerbach has gathered and concentrated in 
the concept of human being the collection of predicates of perfection, 
claiming that this collection of perfection is at the same time a subject 
which asserts itself. As we can see, the characterization is not so far from 
the Hegelian Geist. Feuerbach's presentation is a bit more ambiguous than 
this picture represents, however. He in fact hesitated between a super- 
idealism concentrated in human being and a form of philosophical mate- 
rialism. For example, when Feuerbach says, "Der Mensch ist was er isst," 
the play of words on ist and isst — to be and to eat — emphasizes the 
materialist relation, "man is what he eats." Yet "man" as species being is 
also the actual infinite. Thus in Feuerbach the human being is sometimes 
a god and sometimes a living and eating being. 

The Manuscripts represent an attempt by Marx to naturalize, and in 
that sense to dissolve from within, this Feuerbachian humanism and all its 
idealistic overtones. The relation of human being to nature and of human 
being to human being will absorb the idealistic predicates, and Marx will 

Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 


speak of these relationships as, respectively, natural and generic. (Attention 
to natural relationships becomes the more Marxist terminology; talk of 
generic relationships remains more Feuerbachian.) This ambiguous ter- 
minology allows the Manuscripts to preserve the dignity of a natural being 
w ho > s at tne S!ime t ' me tne Nearer of the universal. The immanence of the 
"species" to the individual lessens the isolation of individual subjects. At 
the same time, particular intersubjective relations support the basic generic 
function; they nourish the sense of species being or generic essence. Al- 
ways, though, this interrelation carries a specifically Marxist flavor of 
naturalism. This strange mixture of naturalism and humanism permeates 
the Manuscripts. 

Reacting to this mixture, critics who deny the final Marxist significance 
of the Manuscripts are in this sense correct: something fundamentally 
Hegelian rules the whole process of its thought, that is, the role of con- 
sciousness in objectifying itself and so negating itself in its product. Human 
beings produce themselves as objects. We recognize in operation here the 
work of the negative by which the Hegelian Spirit differentiates itself, 
ojectifies itself, and produces itself as self. This process of objectification 
and of efficient negativity will become more and more identical to the 
process of work. We might say that in the work of the young Marx a certain 
reciprocity obtains: just as Marx claims that economics grounds the ori- 
entations of philosophy, so German metaphysics also invades Marx's own 
depiction of the economic process. 

To conclude this lecture, let me set aside the methodological significance 
of this last remark in order that I may emphasize its more general import : 
we must observe the persistence in the young Marx of the categories of his 
predecessors. As the following quotation makes even more evident, the 
Manuscripts manifest a strong and as yet undifferentiated conjunction 
between Hegelian, Feuerbachian, and what will become specifically Marx- 
ist concepts: 

The outstanding achievement of Hegel's Phenomenology and of its final outcome, 
the dialectic of negativity as the moving and generating principle, is thus first that 
Hegel conceives the self-creation of man as a process, conceives objectification as 
loss of the object, as alienation and as transcendence [Aufhebung, the suppression, 
the overcoming] of this alienation; that he thus grasps the essence of labor and 
comprehends objective man — true, because real man — as the outcome of man's 
own labor. The real, active orientation of man to himself as a species being, or his 
manifestation as a real species being (i.e., as human being), is only possible by the 
utilization of all the powers he has in himself and which are his as belonging to the 


Marx: Critique of Hegel and Manuscripts 

species — something which in turn is only possible through the cooperative action 
of all of mankind, as the result of history — is only possible by man's treating these 
generic powers as objects: and this, to begin with, is again only possible in the 
form of estrangement. (177) 

Major concepts of Hegel (estrangement, objectification) and of Feuerbach 
(species being, generic powers) are here reformulated and placed within 
the structure of labor. Marx's project is a reconstruction, a philosophical 
reconstruction, of the concept of labor. He reconstructs the concept of 
labor not as a descriptive phenomenon but as a process made meaningful 
through the species being objectifying itself in an object, in a product, and 
then recognizing itself in the product; this is the process of objectification 
and alienation. 

We see that a basic theme in German philosophy is recapitulated in 
Marx. The idea of the self-emptying of oneself in something else in order 
to become oneself is a theme running back from Marx through Hegel to at 
least the age of German mystics such as Jakob Boehme. (Perhaps the 
antecedents stretch back historically even to Paul; his Epistle to the Phi- 
lippians talks of God's self-emptying in Christ.) What Marx calls "treating 
these generic powers as objects" continues a long line in German history 
reflecting on the creative function of emptying oneself in order to reassert 
and recapture oneself. Marx's continuity and discontinuity with his intel- 
lectual predecessors is, then, highly significant. In the Manuscripts, such 
Hegelian and Feuerbachian concepts as objectification, realization, alien- 
ation, and estrangement are employed in a loose fashion to describe the 
underlying structure of the relation of human beings to their labor, to the 
products of their labor, to the activity of labor, to the other laborer, and 
to money as depriving individuals of the meaning of their labor. All the 
reversals at work here prefigure Marx's development of our main theme, 
the concept of ideology. 

What I want to prepare us for in the Manuscripts, therefore, is the 
identification of this strange mixture of a metaphysics of the universal, 
coming from Hegel, a humanistic view of species being, dependent on 
Feuerbach, and the truly Marxist problematic of human beings as workers 
alienated in their labor. Our aim is to continue extracting from Marx's 
development what is of interest for the concept of ideology, and in the next 
lecture we shall return to the Manuscripts for that purpose. 


Marx: The "First Manuscript" 

In this lecture I shall discuss the "First Manuscript" of the Economic and 
Philosophic Manuscripts of 1844. I shall concentrate on the section entitled 
"Estranged Labor." My choice of texts will be selective, depending on 
their relevance for our main topic, the concept of ideology. 

How can we relate the Manuscripts to an inquiry on ideology? The term 
ideology does not appear in the text, and the problem that will come to the 
forefront in The German Ideology, the complete reduction to the life of the 
individual worker as the counterpart of all ideological systems, is not yet 
elaborated. Nevertheless, the Manuscripts are important to our inquiry for 
two reasons. First, the type of reality to be contrasted to ideology is 
becoming more and more specific. Ideological evocation of abstract tran- 
scendent entities is now differentiated from recourse to human individuals 
as living and acting beings in social settings. Second and most important, 
the Manuscripts offer a framework to account for the genesis of the ideo- 
logical entities being repudiated. The Manuscripts provide a model for 
construing the concept of ideology as the reversal of a relation to things, a 
relation to works, and so on. As we shall see in subsequent lectures, the 
concept of ideology will be an extension of this process of inversion to such 
spheres as law, politics, ethics, art, and religion; for Marx these domains 
will be precisely the ideological spheres. The model which the Manuscripts 
provide is the inversion of human labor into an alien, foreign, seemingly 
transcendent entity: private property, or more specifically, capital. There- 
fore, the transformation by which the subjective essence of labor (still very 
Hegelian language) is abolished and lost in a power that seems to rule 
human existence becomes the paradigm for all similar processes. Some- 
thing human is inverted into something which seems to be exterior, exter- 
nal, superior, more powerful, and sometimes supernatural. 


Marx: Vie "First Manuscript" 

In this concept of inversion, which will take on a very technical meaning 
in the Manuscripts, we may observe all kinds of exchanges between the 
Feuerbachian concept — explored in the previous lecture — of the individ- 
ual emptying himself or herself into the divine and human labor inverting 
itself into the foreign power of money. It is as if each type of alienation is 
reflected in and reinforced by the other. As we shall see, this relationship 
is more an analogy than a derivation in the Manuscripts. The increasingly 
dogmatic trend in Marxism is to speak of a derivation of all alienations 
from one fundamental, economic alienation. But in the Manuscripts the 
argument always remains analogical; it is never a systematic deduction, 
reduction, or derivation. We may say, therefore, that the Manuscripts 
speak noAvhere directly of ideology, but it is everywhere indirectly 

In beginning the section of the "First Manuscript" called "Die Entfrem- 
dete Arbeit" (Estranged Labor), we are faced immediately with the se- 
mantic difficulty of translating the German entfremdete with its foot 
-fremd, foreign, alien. Entfremdete has been translated as "estranged," 
which is a good translation. Entfremdete is one of two key words in the 
text which are somewhat distinguishable in Hegel but synonymous in 
Marx. The other word is entausserte whose root, -ausserte, means exter- 
nalized. Entdusserte has usually been translated as alienated. Entfremdung 
and Entdusserung, estrangement and alienation, are rigorously synony- 
mous in Marx, at least in these early texts. As we shall discover, the 
significance of these two terms gains greater clarity in their opposition to 
objectification (Vergenstdndlichung) , the transformation into an object, 
which is the good process that Marx wants to recover. 

In "Estranged Labor" as in the "First Manuscript" as a whole, Marx's 
method is to start from what he calls the premises of political economy 
(106). Marx speaks of premises — the German is Voraussetzungen, so pre- 
suppositions, assumptions — he talks of what has been taken as a fact, and 
so on. And what are these premises? "... The fact of private property." 
Note that the German word for fact here is very strong: it is das Faktum, 
not Tatsache, therefore something well established. 

This means that Marx takes for granted a previous analysis, that of the 
British economists. He credits these economists with a major discovery: 
that wealth is created not by the fertility of the soil, as the physiocrats had 
claimed, but by human labor. For Marx, this Faktum of political economy 
includes in particular several consequences identified by Adam Smith. 

Marx: The "First Manuscript 


First agriculture is now a part of industry; there is a shift from the 
ductivity or fertility of the soil to the productivity of human labor. The 
soil is productive only because human labor is applied to it. A second 
consequence is that with the rise of the profit of mobile capital, the profit 
of the land as land disappears. (For classical economy, this was the land's 
rent ) Third, the land, the ground, becomes a form of capital since it has 
the same relation as mobile, mutable capital to its owner's profits. We may 
say then, either that the value of land as land disappears, or that it is 
absorbed as a particular instance of capital. 

This transformation is what Ivtarx characterizes in the "Third Manu- 
script" as the universalization of private property (132). This does not 
mean that everyone becomes an owner; rather, private property is uni- 
versalized in the sense that all the different kinds of property now become 
abstract. The argument is Hegelian in its orientation. Property has value 
only in its ability to be exchanged as capital. Thus landed property loses 
the status of being a particular and becomes a part, an aspect, of universal 
property. Marx explains this transformation in a section of the "First 
Manuscript" called "Rent of Land." Let me quote for our purposes only a 
few sentences of this important text: 

The final consequence [of this evolution] is thus the abolition of the distinction 
between capitalist and landowner, so that there remain altogether only two classes 
of the population — the working class and the class of capitalists. This huckstering 
with landed property, the transformation of landed property into a commodity, 
constitutes the final overthrow of the old and the final establishment of the money 
aristocracy. (100) 

The result of this transformation is that labor appears as the only source 
for any kind of property. The concept of property is unified on the basis 
of the notion of labor. This is the important conclusion drawn. Marx closes 
the section on "Rent of Land" by arguing that the old French slogan, 
"l'argent n'a pas de maitre" — money has no lord — is now true since "the 
complete domination of dead matter over mankind" (102) has been 
achieved. For Marx this "complete domination of dead matter" is the great 
discovery of British political economy. This discovery, therefore, is not 
Marxist in origin. 

The starting point of the section on "Estranged Labor" is that this 
"domination of dead matter" is taken as a fact by British political economy 
but nevertheless is not understood. Even more, this discovery is self- 
defeating. The claim of political economy is that human labor, human 


Marx: The "First Manuscript 

industry, alone generates all wealth, all capital, but it is actually the case 
that capital hires and fires human labor. For Marx this is the great contra- 
diction of political economy: it has discovered that there is nothing sacred 
in property, that property is merely accumulated labor, and yet property — 
capital — has the power of hiring and firing human labor. These two dis- 
coveries remain scattered effects of political economy's analysis. When 
brought together, however, these effects engender a contradiction that 
forces us to go further than the British economists and to question the 
meaning of what has been taken as fact. Marx proceeds by attempting to 
decipher the meaning of something taken to be merely a fact. 

Political economy starts with the fact of private property, but it does not explain it 
to us. It expresses in general, abstract formulas the material process through which 
private property actually passes, and these formulas it then takes for laws. It docs 
not comprehend these laws, i.e., it does not demonstrate how they arise from the 
very nature of private property. (106) 

The word "nature" is not a good translation here. In using the word 
"nature," the translator mistakenly does not preserve the German Wesen, 
which means essence. Marx wants to oppose an essential analysis to a 
factual analysis. There is no doubt; here Marx is using the Hegelian Wesen. 

Analysis of the process of estrangement or alienation is Marx's answer 
to the silence of British political economy regarding the contradiction 
between the theory that labor is the source of property — wealth — and the 
theory that the wage is the power of money over labor. Marx appropriates 
the two Hegelian concepts Entfremdung and Entdusserung, estrangement 
and alienation, and claims that they express in common precisely the 
inversion that interests us as the model of all ideological processes. 

This fact expresses merely that the object which labor produces — labor's product — 
confronts it as something alien [fremdes], as a power independent of the producer. 
The product of labor is labor which has been embodied in an object, which has 
become material: it is the objectification [Vergegenstandlickung] of labor. (108) 

As I mentioned briefly before, the objectification of labor is contrasted to 
the alienation of labor and is a desirable result. Objectification is a key 
concept in Marx, and in this emphasis he follows Hegel. Objectification is 
the process by which something interior externalizes itself and in that way 
becomes actual, a very Hegelian motif. When I first enter the world, I have 
only an inner life. Only when I do something is there a work, a deed, 
something public and common to others, such that I realize or actualize 

Marx: The "First Manuscript 


myself. Only then do I really come to exist. Objectification is this process 
of actualization. "Labor's realization is its objectification" (108). This is 
the fundamental concept. 

"In the sphere of political economy," however, arid that means in the 
sphere of the capitalist economy, "this realization [Verwirklichung] of labor 
appears as loss of realization [Entwirklichung]. . . ." English and French 
lose the fruits of the wordplay between Verwirklichung and Entwirklichung; 
we would have to speak of realization and "de-realization." The translator 
says "loss of realization," which is a good choice. "In the sphere of political 
economy this realization of labor appears as loss of realization for the 
workers; objectification as loss of the object and bondage to it; appropri- 
ation as estrangement, as alienation" (108). Appropriation and estrange- 
ment are opposed to one another because appropriation means not to 
become an owner but to make proper to oneself (propre), to make one's 
own, what was foreign. (This is also the main opposition in Gadamer's 
Truth and Method, although admittedly in quite a different context. To 
read a text is also to overcome a kind of alienation, a cultural distance, and 
to make one's own what was foreign.) So this differentiation between 
appropriation and estrangement or alienation has strong philosophical over- 
tones. To recapitulate, the process of objectification is not something bad. 
On the contrary, it is the meaning of work as such that we deposit our 
meaning in something exterior. 

As I have observed before, Marx proceeds here just as Hegel did: not 
by the discrimination but by the accumulation of terms. This is the reason 
why a rich semantics exists around Marx's concepts. The terms to become 
actual, to become efficient, and to become objective are all more or less 
synonymous. This accumulative procedure also generates a rich span of 
opposite terms. In contrast to efficient is deficient, in contrast to foreign 
is appropriation, in contrast to estrangement is reappropriation, and so on. 

What Marx's analysis reveals, therefore, is that the reversal taken as a 
"fact" by political economy is in actuality the loss of human essence. What 
properly should be the objectification — the essence — of human labor ap- 
pears in political economy as instead the loss — the estrangement — of its 
realization. Without the insights gained through an analysis of alienation, 
the "facts" of political economy remain meaningless. We may say, very 
cautiously, that Marx's analysis here is a hermeneutics of political economy. 
It is a critical hermeneutics, since political economy conceals the alienation 
native to the labor process. "Political economy conceals the estrangement 

40 Marx: The "First Manuscript" 

inherent in the nature of labor by not considering the direct relationship 
between the worker (labor) and production" (109-10). 

Marx extends his analysis further by comparing what happens in alien- 
ation to what occurs in religion. He uses religion as a metaphor. Marx does 
not claim that what happens in religion proceeds from what happens in 
labor; he says only that the two processes are parallel. "It is the same in 
religion. The more man puts into God, the less he retains in himself [a 
very Feuerbachian statement]. The worker puts his life into the object; 
but now his life no longer belongs to him but to the object" (108). In 
religion and labor the processes of alienation are parallel; they share the 
image of estrangement, whether it be estrangement in the divine or es- 
trangement in capital. 

Marx follows this parallelism in different ways throughout the Manu- 
scripts.' A striking example, to which we shall return, occurs in the "Third 
Manuscript" when Marx calls Adam Smith the Luther of economy (128- 
29). Marx interprets Luther as having interiorized the external obedience 
required by the Catholic church. (This was the perception of Catholicism 
at the time.) Marx goes on to say that Luther accomplished this transfor- 
mation without lifting the burden of transcendence, the burden of being 
under the reign of a transcendent power. This burden is simply changed 
from being a call of external obedience to one of internal obedience. In the 
same way, says Marx, Adam Smith discovered the subjective essence of 
capital; the workings of capital become internalized in the process of labor. 
The burdens of this new transcendence are maintained in the power of 
capital over what actually generates it. Marx's argument is very powerful ; 
a process of internalized transcendence occurs in both cases. 

We shall return to this example of Luther and Adam Smith later ; I 
mention it now to emphasize a methodological point. At this stage of 
Marx's writings there is no claim that religious alienation proceeds from 
economic alienation; the interplay is one of analogy, and it is not necessary 
to press the interpretation further. We should view the degradation and 
perversion that is alienation through a system of analogies rather than as a 
system of derivation. The theory of derivation may seem a more powerful 
argument, but it is also easier to refute. Recourse to analogy, on the other 
hand, is a good instrument for self-criticism. The same observations may 
be made about other thinkers such as, for example, Freud. When Freud 
claims that religion is a kind of private neurosis and neurosis a public 
religion, 1 here too a very powerful analogy exists, but it is one that must 
not be pressed further in the sense of an identity. The analogy says more. 

Marx: The "First Manuscript" 41 

Returning to the remaining pages of the section on "Estranged Labor," 
which end the "First Manuscript," Marx does not add anything further to 
the general concept of alienation, but he articulates it in several figures. 
The basic framework of the concept of alienation has been delineated and 
Marx now proceeds as did Hegel in the Phenomenology: analyzing a figure, 
a shape, by construing its different "moments." Marx demarcates this 
progression within the concept of alienation in four moments. I shall not 
develop each of these four aspects equally but only as each pertains to the 
construction of a good paradigm for ideology. For our purposes, the most 
significant moments are the third* and fourth. 

The first form of alienation occurs in one's relationship to one's own 
labor (no). Alienation of the products of one's labor is the model for 
Marx's depiction of the concept of alienation as a whole. The second aspect 
is alienation in the act of production, in the producing capacity itself. 
Joining Hegel in the capacity to invert expressions, Marx summarizes these 
first two forms of alienation in the following play on words: they represent, 
respectively, the alienation of the activity and the activity of alienation, 
Entdusserung der Tdtigkeit and Tdtigkeit der Entdusserung. 

If then the product of labor is alienation, production itself must be active alienation, 
the alienation of activity, the activity of alienation. In the estrangement of the 
object of labor is merely summarized the estrangement, the alienation, in the activity 
of labor itself, (no) 

The alienation of labor signifies that labor is external to the worker; it is 
not voluntary but coerced or forced labor. The analogy with religion is 
developed once again. 

Just as in religion the spontaneous activity of the human imagination, of the human 
brain and the human heart, operates independently of the individual ... so is the 
worker's activity not his spontaneous activity. It belongs to another; it is the loss 
of his self, (in) 

(Again I note my interest in the use of the word imagination, here not 
Einbildung but Phantasie, so imagination more as fancy than as fiction.) 
The humanism of the young Marx, rejected by the structuralists as we 
shall see in future lectures, is clear in this passage. Marx's portrayal makes 
no sense if it is not the individual in his or her spontaneous activity who is 
affected, infected, and destroyed by alienation. At least at this stage of his 
writing, Marx claims an underlying role for individual spontaneity. 

More important for our purposes than the first two figures, however, is 
the third form of estrangement. This stage will be the most revealing for 

42 Marx: The "First Manuscript" 

our primary purpose, the identification of the real basis from which ideol- 
ogies are abstracted by transcendence. This third form moves beyond 
estrangement in the product and in the activity to the estrangement of the 
worker's humanity itself. The worker is affected and infected in his or her 
Gattungsioesen, species being. I reemphasize the importance of this con- 
cept in Feuerbach. Feuerbach never said that it is each human being who 
advances on the gods; rather, it is something in humanity as a whole that 
is the bearer of the divine predicates. Species being represents humanity 
both in extension — as a collective group — and in intension — as a compre- 
hensive nature. Species being is then a collective being, and it is this 
collective being that has all the attributes of universality, infinity, and so 
on. Given>this characterization, it is less absurd to say that humanity 
invents the gods, since in fact it is a kind of human god or divine human 
being. For Feuerbach to argue that humanity produces the gods, he must 
artificially elevate the species being of humanity to the level of gods, and 
this is no real theoretical advance in our understanding of religion. In any 
case, Marx preserves the concept of species being in the Manuscripts. 
Possibly this is to reinforce emphatically the extensiveness of the concept 
of estrangement, but it is surely also to bring estrangement to the level of 
what Marx called precisely the essence. This was Marx's purpose: to 
proceed from the fact of economy of the essence of estrangement. For 
Marx the influence of estrangement on the human essence is critical. 
Marx typifies the third aspect of estranged labor in the following way : 

Man is a species being, not only because in practice and in theory he adopts the 
species as his object . . . but . . . also because he treats himself as the actual, living 
species; because he treats himself as a universal and therefore a free being. (112) 

The first part of this quotation is Feuerbachian. Human beings are species 
beings not only because they consider or contemplate what is essential but 
because they are essential. This identity of essence and existence in species 
being is one of the continuing problems in a reading of Feuerbach. This 
Feuerbachian emphasis is followed, in the latter part of the quotation, by 
a Hegelian motif. Human freedom occurs not in the mere assertion of 
individuality but when this assertion has been transposed into the sphere 
of universality. Before this transposition occurs, the assertion is only ar- 
bitrariness. Freedom must traverse all the stages of universalization. This 
is the tradition of autonomy in German philosophy: to assert oneself as the 
universal. It is this capacity for being the universal that is affected by 

Marx: The "First Manuscript 


estrangement. "[Ejstranged labor estranges the species from man" (112). 
In his later writings, as we shall see, Marx grafts the concept of the division 
of labor onto this dispersion of species being. If I react as a worker, as an 
individual of the city, or as an individual of the country, I am no longer a 
universal. The division of labor will become a dramatic element in Marx 
because of its relation to this central concept of species being. 

Several important consequences derive from the fact that human beings 
are species beings, and these Feuerbachian influences persist even through 
Marx's writing of Capital. The first consequence is the dividing line be- 
tween animals and human beings. Marx always affirms this difference very 
strongly. In Capital, for example, Marx will say that because bees always 
build their hives each in the same way, their activity is not work. Only 
human beings work. For Marx this difference remains a fundamental 
dividing line between animal life and human life. The distinction, says 
Marx, proceeds from the fact that human beings not only conceive the 
universal, they have a vocation for being universal, and this gives them a 
certain distance from their needs. Human consciousness is superior to mere 
awareness; in its fundamental capacity for reflection, consciousness is 
identified with species being. In the Manuscripts Marx will even claim : 

Just as plants, animals, stones, air, light, etc., constitute theoretically a part of 
human consciousness [this is subjectivist idealism], partly as objects of natural 
sciences, partly as objects of art — his spiritual inorganic nature [again a strongly 
idealistic expression], spiritual nourishment which he must first prepare to make 
palatable and digestible — so also in the realm of practice they constitute a part of 
human life and human activity. (1 12) 

The capacity of human beings to submit nature to their own needs proceeds 
from the "spiritual" superiority of human beings over nature. 

This difference between human life and animal life is not, however, the 
most significant implication of the fact that human beings are species 
beings, this universal essence. The main consequence is the ability of 
human beings to produce themselves by the process of objectification. 

[T]he productive life is the life of the species. It is life-engendering life. The whole 
character of a species — its species character — is contained in the character of its 
life activity; and free, conscious activity is man's species character. Life itself 
appears only as a means to life. (113) 

Human beings work, therefore, not only to eat but in order to become this 
species being. 


Marx: The "First Manuscript 

In creating a world of objects by his practical activity, in his work upon inorganic 
nature, man proves himself a conscious species being, i.e., as a being that treats 
the species as its own essential being, or that treats itself as a species being. (113) 

It is just In his work upon the objective world, therefore, that man first really 
proves himself to be a species being. This production is his active species life. 
Through and because of this production, nature appears as his work and his reality. 
The object of labor is, therefore, the objectification of man's species life. . . .(114) 

The concept of objectification and the idea of life producing life are super- 
imposed. The way humanity produces itself is by objectifying itself. Once 
more this is very Hegelian, since only in deed,, in action, does the self- 
assertion of humanity occur. 

Because of the human vocation to be self -creative, self -asserting, the fact 
of alienation cuts very deeply. To be submitted to the power of another is 
the contrary of the creation of oneself. Estrangement is fundamentally the 
reversal, the inversion, of the human capacity for the creative process of 
objectification. Humanity's species being is the depository of the identity 
between objectification and self-creation. In estrangement this essential 
being is transformed, becoming merely the means to existence in the sense 
of survival. What was formerly the means for self-assertion becomes the 
"end": to exist physically. 

In tearing away [entreisst] from man the object of his production, therefore, 
estranged labor tears from him his species life, his real objectivity as a member of 
the species, and transforms his advantage over animals into the disadvantage that 
his inorganic body, nature, is taken away from him. (114) 

Following the three prior stages of alienation in the product, alienation 
within production, and alienation at the core of species being, the fourth 
and final dimension of alienation is the estrangement of human being from 
human being, estrangement at the level of intersubjectivity. This dimen- 
sion of alienation is important because it reorients in a more concrete way 
the concept of species being. Delineation of this aspect of alienation pro- 
vides us with the transition to the "Third Manuscript." There is no leap 
from the third to the fourth stage of alienation, because for Feuerbach the 
concept of Gattungswesen already had this relational aspect. Gattung- 
swesen is human being for human being. This other-directedness repre- 
sents in each of us our participation in the species. I am part of the species 
to the extent that I recognize the same humanity in others. 

In fact [uberhaupt] , the proposition that man's species nature is estranged from 

Marx: The "First Manuscript 


him means that one man is estranged from the other, as each of them is from man's 
essential nature. 

The estrangement of man, and in fact [uberhaupt] every relationship in which 
man stands to himself, is first realized and expressed in the relationship in which 
a man stands to other men. (114-15) 

Why does Marx say uberhaupt, which means not "in fact" but "in 
general"? At issue is why there is estrangement "in general" at all. Attention 
to this problem provides Marx with the fundamental transition to the 
question: for whose benefit does estrangement occur? Until this point we 
have considered from what human beings are estranged— ^from nature, and 
so on. But if the intersubjective dimension is introduced, then we must 
ask for the sake of whom are we estranged? "If the product of labor is alien 
to me, if it confronts me as an alien power, to whom, then, does it belong?" 
(115). This question is a powerful transition. The problem of wages, the 
relation between capital and wages, is implied in the question of estrange- 
ment for the sake of whom. The two parts of the contradiction of political 
economy — that labor produces all property and yet is hired in the form of 
the wage — are related precisely by the answer to this question. We must 
understand that estrangement is itself an intersubjective process in order 
to acknowledge that in estrangement the power of the one is transferred, 
yielded to the other. 

This transformation in our understanding of estrangement is a decisive 
step in dissolving the prestige of private property. Private property seems 
a thing having power over human beings. Marx's reversal establishes that 
private property is in fact a power of one person over another. There is a 
complete reduction to the human dimension not only of work but also of 
capital. Marx reveals on both sides what has been concealed: both the one 
who labors and the one who enjoys the fruits of this labor. We might say 
that Marx tries to put the relationship between capital and wage within the 
framework of the Hegelian master-slave relationship. The economic rela- 
tion between money and wage or property and wage seems to be a relation 
between things or, as some contemporary Marxists will say, between pro- 
cesses or structures. For at least the young Marx, however, these apparently 
"objective" enigmas must be reduced to subjective processes. The allusion 
to the master-slave relation is significant, because the master and the slave 
do not stand in the same relation to things. The slave forms the thing 
whereas the master enjoys it. It is precisely this relationship which appears 
in our text: "If the worker's activity is a torment to him, to another it must 


Marx: The "First Manuscript 

be delight and his life's joy. Not the gods, not nature, but only man himself 
can be this alien power over man" (115). 

Thus everything is now contained in the relation of one person to 
another. All the magic in the relationship between wage and capital i s 
exposed. Marx closes his discussion by equating to the practical the whole 
process which appears as the work of human beings, including their es- 
trangement. Even human estrangement has to appear as a human activity. 
"The medium through which estrangement takes place is itself practical" 
(116). The concept of the practical is enlarged to include not only simple 
actions but the generation of the whole process of objectification and 
estrangement. Marx insists that we may transform something which is our 
work, because if it were a given or a law of nature, a law which escaped 
us, then the prospect of revolution would be completely insane. If aliena- 
tion is itself our work, however, then so also is the abolition of alienation — 
the topic of the "Third Manuscript." 

In a quasi-Fichtean sense, Marx equates the practical to a creative act. 
Estrangement becomes a medium through which we create without recog- 
nizing that we are creating. What we are doing through estrangement is 
obscure for ourselves; this is why we have to unconceal it. We must 
uncover, says Marx, the act of creation and concealment that is political 
economy itself. 

Thus through estranged labor man not only creates his relationship to the object 
and to the act of production as to men that are alien and hostile to him [these are 
three of the shapes of estrangement] ; he also creates the relationship in which other 
men stand to his production and to his product, and the relationship in which he 
stands to these other men. Just as he creates his own production as the loss of his 
reality, as his punishment; his own product as a loss, as a product not belonging 
to him; so he creates the domination of the person who does not produce over 
production and over the product. Just as he estranges his own activity from himself, 
so he confers to the stranger an activity which is not his own. (116; emphases 

Marx's usage of the concept of creation is extremely important because 
it provides a scope to the concept of production that is much broader than 
mere economics. I sometimes wonder whether orthodox Marxism's dog- 
matic reduction of everything to production does not proceed from a failure 
either to know or remember that for the young Marx at least the concept 
of production was defined by creation, and not the contrary. It is because 
human beings create their lives and the conditions for their lives that they 
produce. The concept of production here does not initially have an eco- 

Marx: The "First Manuscript 


nomic meaning. What some schools of Marxism, those most opposed to 
t j,js reduction, have called economism in Marxism proceeds from this 
leveling, this flattening, of the concept of production. Thanks to its origin 
• n ^gel and Feuerbach, though, the concept of production preserves a 
broader intention. The later division in the Marxian use of the word 
production will be very unfortunate. Sometimes production will be op- 
posed to consumption, and then it is merely an economic process; on the 
other hand, sometimes production will be opposed to estrangement, and 
then it has a broader meaning. The hesitation between the two uses of the 
word production will be a dramatic adventure within the Marxist school. 
This is one reason why the return to the young Marx is most significant. 

Marx concludes his argument in "Estranged Labor" and the "First 
Manuscript" as a whole by saying: "we have derived the concept of private 
property from the concept of estranged, alienated labor by analysis. . . ." 
(118). Marx summarizes his argument as having been derived by analysis. 
"Just as we have derived the concept of private property from the concept 
of estranged, alienated labor by analysis, so we can develop every category 
of political economy with the help of these two factors. . . ." Because the 
concept of private property has been derived, we may say that what ap- 
peared as a starting point, as a "fact" of political economy, has now become 
a result of the analysis. "[I]t is as a result of the movement of private 
property that we have obtained the concept of alienated labor . . . from 
political economy" (117). What was a fact now appears a result : "on analysis 
of this concept [of alienated labor] it becomes clear that though private 
property appears to be the source, the cause of alienated labor, it is rather 
its consequence, just as the gods are originally not the cause but the effect 
of man's intellectual confusion" (117). To a static fact Marx opposes a 
dynamic process, the process of estrangement, and the static fact is deter- 
mined to be the frozen result of this dynamic process. In actuality alienation 
is the source, the cause, the ground of private property, not as a positivistic 
cause but as the fundamental meaning which rules a fact. The relation 
between meaning and fact is dominant: "We have accepted the estrange- 
ment of labor, its alienation, as a fact, and we have analyzed this fact" 
(1 18). A mystery, an enigma is dissolved by this reduction of the origin to 
the status of an effect. This is the model of all Ideohgiekritik. 

This conclusion is most powerful. Marx establishes that the fact of 
private property, the domination of dead matter — capital — over human 
beings, is in actuality a product of the estrangement of human essence, 
humanity's species being. The "First Manuscript" demarcates the different 


Marx: The "First Manuscript 

forms of estrangement and demonstrates most importantly that estrange- 
ment is at bottom a result of human activity itself. In this manuscript Marx 
not only reaffirms the model of inversion, of reversal ; he also extends this 
model by offering a more precise account of the genesis of ideologic^ 
entities, tbat is to say, by analyzing to a greater depth the real basis from 
which ideologies are abstracted. 

Despite these powerful insights, however, Marx expresses at the very 
end of the "First Manuscript" some dissatisfaction with his results. Un- 
resolved by the analysis of the "fact" of political economy is the question 
"how": how do human beings come to alienate their labor? Marx deter- 
mines that he must change his attention from the analysis of human essence 
to the question of history. This transition introduces the problem not only 
of the "Third Manuscript" but also of The German Ideology. Marx sees 
that he must pursue the implications of his discovery that estrangement is 
a movement, a movement of private property. The problem is to transform 
a concept — essence — into a historical force. In Hegel the concept was not 
static but dynamic. Nevertheless, it is always difficult in Hegel to correlate 
what happens in the field of shapes, figures, with historical examples. A 
certain gap exists between the examples and the concept, the work of the 
concept. In his own raising of the question of the historical, Marx may 
have wanted to be very cautious not to become trapped in this difficulty. 
This is why Marx ends the "First Manuscript" by raising the following 

We have accepted the estrangement of labor, its alienation, as a fact, and We have 
analyzed this fact. How, we now ask, does man come to alienate, to estrange, his 
labor? How is this estrangement rooted in the nature of human development? We 
have already gone a long way to the solution of this problem by transforming the 
question of the origin of private property into the question of the relation of alienated 
labor to the course of humanity's development. For when one speaks of private 
property, one thinks of dealing with something external to man. When one speaks 
of labor, one is directly dealing with man himself. This new formulation of the 
question already contains its solution, (i 18-19) 

Unfortunately, the manuscript breaks off unfinished soon after this state- 
ment, but we see that the problem is the need to pass from an essential 
analysis to a historical analysis. We shall follow this problem and its im- 
plications for the concept of ideology when we turn in the next lecture to 
the "Third Manuscript." 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 

In this lecture I shall discuss the "Third Manuscript" of Marx's Economic 
and Philosophic Manuscripts. I leave aside the "Second Manuscript," be- 
cause most of it has been lost; only a few pages survive. This discussion 
will complete my presentation of the Manuscripts as a whole. 

The distinctiveness of the "Third Manuscript," in comparison with the 
first, lies much more at the level of method than content. The "Third 
Manuscript" does not add anything important to the concept of alienation 
as such. Alienation remains the inversion of the different modes of objec- 
tification. In this manuscript we find the same fundamental approval of 
the insights of British political economy regarding the complete reduction 
of all property, particularly landed property, to capital. At its ultimate 
stage, the structure of property is manifested in a relation to money and 
not to the land itself. Not only has British political economy established 
the complete reduction of all property to capital, though, for it has also 
established the complete reduction of capital to labor, and therefore to a 
subjective factor. In the first lines of the "Third Manuscript" this latter 
reduction is expressed as a reduction to the "subjective essence": "The 
subjective essence of private property — private property as activity for 
itself, as subject, as person- — is labor" (128). Labor is the sole essence of 
wealth. This is a summary of what was said in the "First Manuscript." 
The language is quite Hegelian ; the internalization of something exterior — 
in this case, depiction of the subjective essence of private property — is a 
typical Hegelian procedure. 

Another way Marx expresses the role of "subjective essence" is by saying 
that political economy has taken modern industry and "made it a power in 
the realm of consciousness" (128). The word "consciousness" is not used 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

in the sense that we give to the word now, that is, as awareness, as being 
aware of. Instead, consciousness takes on the much stronger sense found 
in German philosophy of being the center of production. As such, con- 
sciousness is then the center of reference of all existence. The philosophical 
accent is strong. This emphasis on "a power in the realm of consciousness" 
marks precisely the great difference between the Manuscripts and The 
German Ideology. In the latter text, the function of consciousness as the 
ultimate reference of analysis is replaced by the notion of the real, living 
individual, the working and suffering individual. The concept of conscious- 
ness recedes exactly on the side of ideology; it becomes one of the concepts 
belonging to the ideological sphere. In the Manuscripts, however, con- 
sciousness is still the instance to which ideology is reduced. Only in The 
German Ideology is consciousness reduced in turn to something more 
primitive, more radical: the real, living individual. The individual takes 
the place of consciousness. 

Marx's comparison of Adam Smith and Luther in the "Third Manu- 
script," which I anticipated in the last lecture, is a commentary on this 
reduction to consciousness. As I explained before, just as Luther is credited 
with having interiorized religious alienation, so Adam Smith has interior- 
ized the power of property as in fact that of labor. What Adam Smith has 
failed to point out, however, says Marx, is that this power of human labor 
has been alienated. The human being 

no longer stands in an external relation of tension to the external substance of 
private property, but has . . . become this essence of private property. What was 
previously being external to oneself — man's externalization in the thing — has 
merely become the act of externalizing — the process of alienating. (129) 

Again, this is a summary of the "First Manuscript." Another similar expres- 
sion Marx uses is that the human being as "essence" has become "unessen- 
tial" (130). The German is stronger here ; the comparison is between Wesen 
and Unwesen. The alienation of the labor process makes the human being, 
as essence, the non-essence. 

The "Third Manuscript" does not improve, then, the concept of alien- 
ation, but it is nevertheless important for several reasons. First, it provides 
a historical dimension to a concept which in the "First Manuscript" re- 
mained abstract and ahistorical. Development of the history of property 
and therefore of the history of the division of labor provides a history for 
alienation itself. Alienation becomes less and less a concept than a process. 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

T he manuscript s P ea ' cs °' tne ev °l ut i° n from ground rent to abstract 
p er ty, the reduction of agriculture to industry. "All wealth has become 
•ndustrial wealth, the wealth of labor; and industry is accomplished labor, 
' t as the factory system is the essence of industry . . ." (131). The 
j n g Ua ge of essence persists, even as it becomes more historical. As I 
mentioned in the last lecture, the Hegelian concept of essence establishes 
^ow an essence can be historical. For Hegel the essence is not static but 
rather the germinal kernel of an evolution. The language of essence and 
tri e language of historical development can both be preserved, since the 
essence is itself the germ of a historical development. Therefore for Marx, 
"industry is accomplished labor, just as the factory system is the essence 
of industry — of labor — brought to its maturity, and just as industrial 
capital is the accomplished objective form of private property" (131). 

Marx's stress not only on essence but on an essence "brought to its 
maturity" yields yet another comparison with Hegel. As Emil Fackenheim 
has shown in his book The Religious Dimension in Hegel's Thought, Hegel 
thought that he was able to philosophize because certain fundamental 
historical developments had occurred : the Enlightenment, liberal Protes- 
tantism, the rise of the liberal state. Similarly, Marx believes that another 
historical plateau has been achieved. With the rise of the English factory, 
the essence of industry is "brought to its maturity." The meaning of an 
event becomes clear and a theory of it becomes possible when it has been 
brought to its maturity by history. This emphasis in Marx helps explain 
the following methodological remarks, a remark significant also as a tran- 
sition from a Hegelian to a properly Marxist approach: "We can now see 
how it is only at this point that private property can complete its dominion 
over man and become, in its most general form, a world-historical power" 
(131). Exactly as in the Hegelian system, only when a form has reached 
its maturity may we speak of its essence. The essence recaptures the 
movement from inchoate to mature form. This is Marx's answer to the 
question left unsolved in the "First Manuscript," when he said, "We have 
accepted the estrangement of labor. . . . How, we now ask, does man come 
to alienate, to estrange, his labor" (118)? The answer is that there is a 
historical expansion of an essence, the essence of industry. 

The second contribution of the "Third Manuscript," and for us the most 
interesting, is the introduction of an approach looking at the suppression 
of the contradiction of estrangement. We may say, and this too is very 
Hegelian, that we understand a contradiction when it is in the process of 

52 Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 

being overcome. We regard the contradiction from the point of view of it s 
overcoming. Hegel's Logic, for example, starts with the concepts of being 
nonbeing, and becoming, and it is only because of the concept of becoming 
that the pair being/nonbeing becomes a creative contradiction and not 
merely a dead opposition. A look backward occurs from the process of 
suppression to the contradiction itself. This perspective changes decisively 
how the problems of the "First Manuscript" are approached. The "First 
Manuscript" started from the "facts, " the facts discerned by British political 
economy, and it analyzed these facts to extract their essence. The analysis 
was regressive from fact to essence, but always within, always on the basis 
of, the "facts. " In the "Third Manuscript, " however, the approach proceeds 
from the. movement of the overcoming of suppression to the contradiction 
itself. The "Third Manuscript" says: "The transcendence of self-estrange- 
ment follows the same course as self-estrangement" (132). Because it "fol- 
lows the same course," we may read the meaning of estrangement in the 
meaning of its suppression. 

In the "Third Manuscript," therefore, Marx reformulates the Hegelian 
concept ol Aufliebung in relation to self-estrangement. Our text's translation 
of Aufliebung as "transcendence" is unfortunate; I do not think that in 
English we hear the movement of transcending in transcendence. But there 
is no good translation of the German word. In Hegel, Aufliebung means 
the overcoming of a contradiction but an overcoming, a suppression, that 
preserves the positive meaning of the first term. The first term is said to 
become itself in its overcoming. Thus the Aufliebung both suppresses and 
preserves the strength of the contradiction within the solution that over- 
comes the first term. As we can see, the Hegelian concept is very complex. 
In the Manuscripts, though, there is no doubt that Aufliebung means simply 
abolition. From Hegel to Marx the meaning of Aufliebung is reduced to 
that of abolition, more specifically, practical abolition. In Marx the role of 
Aufliebung as preservation disappears, and it is replaced by an emphasis 
on Aufliebung as suppression alone. For this reason I think that in the 
Manuscripts the best translation of Aufliebung would be suppression and 
not transcendence. 

In the "Third Manuscript" communism will be the name for the Auflie- 
bung — the transcendence, the suppression — of self -estrangement. The 
word "communism" does not yet have the specific political and organiza- 
tional meaning it will have later. At this point the word designates in a 
vague way only the stage of history in which the contradiction will have 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 


eared. We have no right, therefore, to say communism here repre- 
ts anything like the Soviet Union. We must forget completely that there 

no w somewhere a country called communist. This distinction is impor- 
* nt f or our relation to Marx in general. It is not that our relation to Marx 
hould be neutral but rather that it must be nonpolemical, just like our 
relation to such other thinkers as Freud, Nietzsche, and so on. 

j-Iow, then, is the Aufhebung, the suppression, of self-estrangement to 
occur? As I have already quoted, Marx says: "The transcendence [suppres- 
sion] 01 self-estrangement follows the same course as self-estrangement" 
(132). To say that it "follows the same course" means that the process of 
overcoming will proceed from partial to total stages. Just as the course of 
estrangement moved from a partial stage — the relation of the agricultural 
worker to the landowner — to a total stage — the relation of the worker to 
abstract, universal capital — so the overcoming of estrangement will pro- 
ceed from a partial, scattered overcoming to an abstract and universal 
overcoming. Marx will develop the different aspects of the overcoming in 
the same way as he analyzed the forms of estrangement. 

Because the process of Aufhebung must move from a partial to a total 
overcoming, we can better explain Marx's harsh and in many respects 
surprising attack on what he calls crude communism. He speaks of the "as 
yet completely crude and thoughtless communism" (133). Marx issues this 
brutal condemnation because he thinks a partial break with the system — 
for example, a return to nature or a return to a previous relation to the 
land — would not identify the full consequences of the abstractness of labor 
and consequently could not bring about liberation at a level equal to that 
of the estrangement. To respond to an abstract estrangement by concrete 
liberation is not the solution. The solution must respond to the level of the 
problem. (An interesting comparison could be made here between Marx 
and those in the United States and Europe who argue that to find a solution 
to the industrial system we must precisely get out of the industrial system.) 
For Marx, we must push the industrial system to its last consequences in 
order to achieve a solution at the level of the illness. The nostalgia of 
romantics for an earlier labor situation is thus misplaced. The craft worker 
who made a complete work still did not control the market; the value of 
the work was determined by someone else. Marx's condemnation of crude 
communism is so strong, then, because there the relation to property in 
the form of "envy" and "greed" (133) — unfair terms, I would say — has 
not been subverted. 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

Marx's position here surely involves the question of humanity's Gat- 
tungswesen, its species being. For Marx the preservation of humanity's 
species being necessarily entails, as we saw in the last lecture, a strong 
opposition between human being and animals, between culture and nature, 
rf the break with property does not preserve this dichotomy — for example, 
by a return to nature, which would obscure the difference between human 
being and animal — then the solution is regressive. The annulment of 
private property by universal private property is an abstract negation of 
the world of culture. Even if an equality of wages is paid out by communal 
capital, the community as a whole becomes "the universal capitalist" ( 1 34) . 
By "the universal capitalist" Marx means that what is universalized is only 
the relation* of estrangement: everyone becomes alienated, instead of just 
the working class. It might be proper, in fact, to call this universalization 
ideological. Marx says, "Both sides of the relationship [labor and capital] 
are raised to an imagined universality ..." (134). The German original 
for "imagined" is vorgestellte; therefore, the universalization occurs in 
representation only. For Marx the solution is an imaginary one. 

As a test case of his argument Marx takes the relation between man and 
woman. This relation is a test case because it exists on the borderine 
between nature and culture. In this kind of relation it is most crucial to 
preserve the difference between nature and culture since it is not a given. 
The question is reminiscent of Hegel, who says that the relation between 
man and woman is the "natural" access to community life. True sexuality 
belongs both to nature and, through the kinship system, to culture. If we 
read Marx here with Levi-Strauss' eyes, the relation between man and 
woman is very striking, since it is a natural species relationship which has 
to remain at the same time a relation of species being. Marx is horrified by 
the notion of a "community of women," where "a woman becomes a piece 
of communal and common property" (133) for men; the community of 
women blurs the distinction between culture and nature, between human- 
ness and animal life. 

This direct, natural, and necessary relation of person to person is the relation of 
man to woman. In this natural species relationship man's relation to nature is 
immediately his relation to man, just as his relation to man is immediately his 
relation to nature — his own natural destination. In this relationship, therefore, is 
sensuously manifested, reduced to an observable fact, the extent to which the 
human essence has become nature to man, or to which nature to him has become 
the human essence of man. From this relationship one can therefore judge man's 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 


whole level of development. From the character of this relationship follows how 
much man as a species being, as man, has come to be himself and to comprehend 
ILnself- • • • (134) 

fhe English is poor here, using only one word for "man" as human and 
for man as distinct from woman. The example of the relation between 
m an and woman shows, therefore : "The first positive annulment of private 
property — crude communism — is thus merely one form in which the vile- 
ness of private property, which wants to set itself up as the positive com- 
munity, comes to the surface" (134-35). Marx emphasizes that to gener- 
alize this property relation is still to remain within a property relation. This 
is the situation of the universal capitalist. In future years Marx fights 
strongly against all attempts to make everyone a small capitalist, to distrib- 
ute ownership, for these are efforts that would prevent the abolition of 
property. This is why the Communist Party and many other branches of 
Marxism will fight against any kind of reformism which would distribute 
or enlarge the field of property without abolishing the relation as such. 

The fight against crude communism and its reformism leads to the third 
contribution of the "Third Manuscript": development of the concept of 
accomplished communism. Accomplished communism plays the same role 
in the "Third Manuscript" 's discussion of the suppression of self-estrange- 
ment as accomplished alienation does in the "First Manuscript" 's analysis 
of the course of self-estrangement. The parallelism is not complete, how- 
ever, since in the British factory of Marx's time there exists the figure, the 
symbol, of accomplished alienation, while the concept of accomplished 
communism floats, we may say, above the analysis. In light of this differ- 
ence, I propose to say — though it is an interpretation, and I do not want 
to read it into the text — that the notion of accomplished communism in 
this text plays the role of a Utopia. Could we not say, then, that we have 
another perspective on alienation : may we not look at alienation and judge 
it from this nowhere of Utopia? Does not all judgment on ideology proceed 
from the nowhere of Utopia? I know the Marxists' response to this view — 
my position is not a criticism but an attempt to understand — they will 
reject the Utopian characterization, and for one fundamental reason. All 
Utopias depend on a leap of the imagination "nowhere," "elsewhere," 
whereas the Marxists contend they rely on the inner movement proceeding 
from estrangement itself toward its own overcoming. For Marx, no fan- 
tastic leap onto the island of Utopia need occur; the suppression of the 
contradiction proceeds from the contradiction itself. The accusation of the 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

Utopian characterization is escaped by reinforcing the Hegelian character 
of the analysis: the claim is that the contradiction has a dynamism which 
by necessity pushes forward its own overcoming. 

This is the general Marxist approach to the question of the last stage. 
The claim is that this last stage is not invented; rather, it is ascertained by 
looking at the movement of estrangement's self -overcoming. The result 
Marx says, is the following: > 

Communism as the positive transcendence [overcoming, suppression] of private 
property, as human self-estrangement, and therefore as the real [not imagined but 
real, xvirkliche] appropriation of the human essence by and for man*, communism 
therefore as the complete return of man to himself as a social (i.e., human) being — 
a return become conscious, and accomplished within the entire wealth of previous 
development. This communism, as fully developed naturalism, equals humanism. 
. . . [This is the famous text which says that naturalism equals humanism in the 
last stage, since nature becomes human and humanity becomes natural.] [I]t is the 
genuine resolution of the conflict between man and nature and between man and 
man — the true resolution of the strife between existence and essence, between 
objectification and self -confirmation, between freedom and necessity, between the 
individual and the species. Communism is the riddle of history solved, and it knows 
itself to be this solution. (135) 

The last sentence is typically Hegelian; that the riddle of history is solved 
is the perspective of the Phenomenology of Spirit. The final stage overcomes 
and subsumes the contradictions of the earlier ones. This final solution, 
because it is rooted in the contradiction itself, also "knows itself to be this 
solution," says Marx. This knowledge is exactly the equivalent of Hegel's 
Absolute Knowledge. The process is one of overcoming the series of 
contradictions, and Absolute Knowledge is nothing other than the self- 
reflection of the whole process. (The issue of the self-reflection of the whole 
process is discussed at length in Jean Hyppolite's book Genesis and Struc- 
ture of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. ) Marx may transpose Hegelianism , 
but he raises the same questions. At issue is the locus of the one who 
engages in self-reflection. For Hegel the distinction is always between the 
"for us," for us philosophers who know the end, and in the "in itself" of 
the process. We may say that in the same way as the "for us" of the 
philosophers leads the interpretive process of the figures "in themselves, " 
resolution of the problem of estrangement enlightens the deciphering of 
the contradiction itself. In the "Third Manuscript" the concept of accom- 
plished communism has the s?me role as the "for us" of Hegel. > 
This similarity has some implications that are not only intriguing but 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 


^ hly attractive. I want to emphasize one of these implications in partic 
lar The concept of accomplished communism has as its principal and 
concrete achievement the restoration of a sense oi wholeness, of totality. 
In the division of labor humanity itself is divided; one person is an owner, 
another is a worker, and so on. In contrast, the concept of totality looks to 
the reconstruction of a whole; the integrity and integrality of humanity 
becomes the leading concept. This emphasis is intimated when Marx says: 
"The entire movement of history is, therefore, both its actual [wirklicher] 
act of genesis . . . and also for its thinking consciousness the comprehended 
and known process of its becoming" (135). Here is the same equation as 
in Hegel between what is real and what is thought. Because the act of 
genesis is vnrklich, therefore actual in the sense of efficacious, it can be 
begriffne und gewusste, comprehend and known. There is a reflection of 
the process in thought. 

This equation between actual and comprehended at the level of the 
totality is developed mainly by Lukacs and the Austro-Hungarian branch 
of Marxism. In History and Class Consciousness Lukacs places a great 
reliance on the concept of totality, arguing that emphasis of this concept 
distinguishes a Marxist approach from a positive approach. In contrast to 
the latter position, which proceeds by analysis alone, by analysis of parts, 
Lukacs says we must consider the parts from the point of view of the whole 
and then rebuild the whole by use of the parts. A similar perspective is 
apparent in Sartre. In the Critique of Dialectical Reason, Sartre opposes 
the analytical relation to belonging to a whole. It is this belonging to a 
whole which is, finally, destroyed by alienation. Sartre provides a new 
concept of alienation , then , as an analytical process destroying the synthetic 
movement of humanity. The emphasis in the "Third Manuscript" on the 
notion of totality reinforces the difference between this manuscript and the 
first. No longer does the investigation move from fact to concept; instead, 
a circular relation is established between "the riddle of history" and the 
solution which "knows itself to be this solution." 

This circular approach, a consideration of the process of alienation from 
the point of view of its suppression, also has important methodological 
implications. First, to observe that the beginning is interpreted by the end 
is to claim that here Marx is very philosophical. As Heidegger has observed, 
every good philosophical work is circular in the sense that the beginning 
belongs to the end; the problem is to enter correctly into the circular 
movement. 1 We cannot argue against Marxism, then, by saying that if its 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

analysis is defined by the projection of a finite state, this is not good 

A second methodological implication of Marx's circular approach has 
special appeal for those of us interested in the problem of the text and 
hermeneutics. The following remark of Marx is most significant: "A psy- 
chology for which this, the part of history most contemporary and acces- 
sible to sense, remains a closed book, cannot become a genuine, compre- 
hensive and real science" (142). Marx criticizes those who approach 
political economy by an analytical approach, giving first a theory of salary, 
then a theory of property, and so on, chapter after chapter, without seeing 
the contradictions. What is destroyed by this process of analysis, says Marx, 
is the concept of society; humanity becomes a "closed book." What i s 
needed, therefore, is the unconcealment or unsealing of the closed book. 
This emphasis is developed mainly by the post-Heideggerian Marxists, 
Habermas and others, who put Marxism more on the side of interpretation 
that on the side of explanation. If explanation is American sociology, then 
German Ideologiekritik is a kind of comprehension. Marx says that in the 
closed book all that is described constitutes nothing more than vulgar need. 
The text of action is viewed to be a mute text. In contrast, says Marx : 

We see how the history of industry and the established objective existence of 
industry are the open book of man's essential powers, the exposure to the senses of 
human psychology. Hitherto this was not conceived in its inseparable connection 
with man's essential being, but only in an external relation of utility, because, 
moving in the realm of estrangement, people could only think of man's general 
mode of being — religion or history in its abstract-general character as politics, art, 
literature, etc. — as the reality of man's essential powers and man's species activity. 

For the method which regards everything from the outside, in an external 
relation, the history of industry is a closed book. This concept of the closed 
book may be a source of the opposition, prevalent in orthodox Marxism, 
between ideology and science. Science becomes the reading of the closed 
text of industry. I would argue, however, that only when we view the text 
as open may we get out of the realm of estrangement. Perhaps science 
needs to be supported by Utopia in order to unseal the sealed book. I do 
not want to expect too much of these passages in Marx, but it is a reward 
for the reader to find sections of this sort. 

A fourth contribution of the "Third Manuscript" takes us beyond the 
retrospective use of the final stage to enlighten the previous stages and 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 


brings forth a most important implication of the all-comprehensive concept 
of supp 1 * 88 ' 011- Marx's concept of suppression (Aufhebung) embraces the 
(naterial and spiritual aspects of estrangement as two separable forms. 
Again the contrast with orthodox Marxism is revealing" In orthodox Marx- 
ism the claim is that alienation in religion proceeds from alienation in 
economics. If, however, we follow Lukics and Sartre and recognize that 
Marx's position here incorporates the category of totality, then the claim 
is rather that we have partial figures constituting a whole. This change in 
orientation transforms the basis of the analogy between figures. We may 
make good use of the analogy between figures but must do so without 
claiming that one merely relies on or proceeds from the other. 

The positive transcendence [positive suppression] of private property, as the ap- 
propriation of human life [this is a global concept], is therefore the positive tran- 
scendence of all estrangement — that is to say, the return of man from religion, 
family, state, etc., to his human, i.e., social existence. Religious estrangement as 
such occurs only in the realm of consciousness, of man's inner life, but economic 
estrangement is that of real life. . . . (136) 

Thus, economic estrangement and spiritual estrangement are analogous 
figures. We may view their unity from the perspective of the concept of 
the whole human being, an entity liberated precisely as a whole. We may 
regard the partial estrangements from the perspective of a total 

Does Marx express in this context more than an analogy, though? Im- 
mediately preceding the quotation just cited Marx writes: "Religion, fam- 
ily, state, law, morality, science, art, etc., are only particular modes of 
production, and fall under its general law" (136). The analogy between 
figures seems transformed into a reduction of all figures to the economic. 
This is not, however, an accurate reading of the quotation. In German the 
word Pmducktion has the same amplitude as obj edification; thus, Marx's 
statement does not express an economism. The reductionism of classical 
Marxism is nevertheless nourished by the word's ambiguity. Pmduktion 
means both creative activity in general, activity as realization, and economic 
activity in particular, the material, perceptible form of estrangement. Un- 
der the influence of both Engels and Lenin, the category of totality is 
forgotten, and the economic concept of production swallows all the other 
dimensions of the concept of production in general, the concept still pow- 
erful in the Manuscripts. A shift occurs, moving away from the sense of 
the whole, away from the broad scope of the word "production," which 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

has the same scope as the concept of appropriation itself, an appropriation 
covering all aspects of human life. Instead, the concept of production 
narrows to an economic basis and all human activities are related to this 
basis. We must hold on carefully, therefore, to those texts where this 
reduction has not yet appeared. Only the category of totality allows us to 
prevent the reduction to a mere economic concept of production. The 
unfortunate distinction that will prevail in Marxism between infrastructure 
and superstructure is the result of this reduction of the concept of produc- 
tion to a merely economic concept. 2 

In contrast, the notion of human being producing human being is the 
limit opposed to this reduction. Elaboration of this notion, the fifth major 
contribution of the "Third Manuscript," is linked to the circular relation 
describea earlier between human activity and the assumption of an accom- 
plished end to this activity. Here the emphasis is not so much the end itself 
(the abolition of estrangement) but that the notion of human being pro- 
ducing human being makes sense only upon the assumption of this end. 
"We have seen, " says Marx, "how on the assumption of positively annulled 
private property man produces man — himself and the other man . L ." 
(136). This is not an economic concept but rather an anthropological 
concept, an anthropological concept in its preeconomic stage. I emphasize 
Marx's use of the word "assumption," which relates to my interpretation 
that the end is a kind of Utopia. The word for assumption in the German 
original is Voraussetzung, so presupposition. We shall read in The German 
Ideology that the kind of anthropology Marx develops is not Voraussetzung- 
los, is not without presupposition. The presupposition is precisely that of 
a liberated human being. It is not, therefore, an objective description. The 
description is motivated by the process of liberation. It is "on the assump- 
tion of positively annulled private property [the Voraussetzung] [that] man 
produces man. . . ." 

If we take objectification to be the process whereby "man produces man, " 
then we have a better sense now of what this concept means. As I discussed 
in the last lecture, objectification is the form of externalization that Marx 
both contrasts to estrangement and also wants to reconstitute. What Marx 
establishes here is that the theory of appropriation logically precedes that 
of alienation, even if appropriation appears only as a historical result, a 
result of alienation's overcoming. The logical point of departure is the 
actual historical result. It is anticipation of the end of alienation which says 
something about the origin of the process in objectification. Only on the 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 61 

gsum ption of appropriation do we understand the proper human activity, 
that "man produces man." Thus, it is on the assumption of the abolition 
0 f estrangement that the fundamental concept of object ification is revealed. 

This perspective allows me to raise again one of my hypotheses in these 
lectures: that a use of Utopia is the tool for the critique of ideology. Is it 
n ot from the nowhere of an unalienated human being that we may speak 
of alienation? More precisely, how could we suffer from alienation if we 
had no anticipation of a state in which we would not be alienated? The 
anticipation of the end is therefore projected backwards. As long as we use 
only the method of the "First Manuscript," which is to dig under the fact 
of political economy, to proceed, as Marx says, by analysis of a fact, we 
cannot say much about objectification. But behind this analysis of the fact 
exists an anticipation of the end; we thus have to introduce the Aufliebung, 
the suppression of alienation, as a critical concept that uncovers what Marx 
already meant by the process of objectification. It is only after alienation 
has ended, whatever that may mean — the state of nonalienated labor if 
that is possible, the end of the wage, the end of the market, and so on — 
that we may say that now human beings objectify themselves. 

The notion of objectification, that "man produces man," alerts us to the 
importance in Marx of the social dimension. Recourse to this dimension is 
one way Marx preserves the concept of totality. When Marx says that 
something is social, he invariably means that it makes a whole, whether of 
human being with human being or of the different human activities and 
faculties. It is the concept of a bond. To say that human beings are social 
is, therefore, more than a platitude; the ascription is a dynamic, all- 
embracing concept. "The human essence of nature first exists only for 
social man. . . . Thus society is the unity of being of man with nature — 
the true resurrection of nature — the naturalism of man and the humanism 
of nature both brought to fulfillment" (137). The word "social" must be 
interpreted in light of the concept of humanity as a totality, as a whole, 
and not in a Durkheimian or sociologist sense. Society designates this 
wholeness. I shall continually use the concept of the whole as the key. 

Although the term is not used, ideology appears here as one aspect of 
this all-embracing production that is the social. In describing the function- 
ing of ideology, Marx uses the word Tdtigkeit, activity. Tdtigkeit is the key 
concept in Fichte, where being human is a streben, a striving, aspiring, 
productive activity. The allusion to Fichte in this text is no mistake. The 
French thinker Roger Garaudy, for example, strongly maintains that the 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

Manuscripts must be interpreted in the light of Fichte, whose influence on 
Marx has been all but forgotten in the attention given to the role of Hegel. 3 
The Fichtean character of Marx's description of human activity is plain. 

fyly general consciousness is only the theoretical shape of that which the living 
shape is the real community, the social fabric, although at the present day general 
consciousness is an abstraction from real life and as such confronts it with hostility. 
The activity [Tatigkeit] of my general consciousness, as an activity, is therefore 
also my theoretical existence as a social being. (137) 

Intellectual life is not reduced to economic life; instead, Marx attempts to 
lift the abstraction which opposed one to the other. Once more, it is the 
scope given,to rebuilding the totality that presides over this analysis. 

To say that intellectual life is an abstraction is true. We all know what 
it means to have a relation only to books and not to real people, real life. 
This is the kind of abstraction Marx denounces when he speaks — if still 
not by name — of ideology. It is not the negation of the worth of intellectual 
life, but the disease which affects its separation from work, from labor. "In 
his consciousness of species man confirms his real social life and simply 
repeats his real existence in thought, just as conversely the being of the 
species confirms itself in species-consciousness and exists for itself in its 
generality as a thinking being" (138). This text has been used sometimes 
by orthodox Marxism to depict the concept of consciousness as merely a 
reflection — a mirror — of real life. The concept of ideology as reflection 
derives from this type of argument. My interpretation of the text quoted 
is somewhat different, however. When Marx says that "man . . . simply 
repeats his real existence in thought," the word "repeats" means that 
nothing could appear in the intellectual sphere if it had no roots in praxis, 
in practical life. The repetition occurs, therefore, not in the sense of a 
mirror but in the sense of having no roots in itself. "Thinking and being 
are thus no doubt distinct," Marx writes, "but at the same time they are 
in unity with each other" (138). 

To summarize this development we could say with Marx: 'Man appro- 
priates his total essence in a total manner, that is to say, as a whole man" 
(138). I propose that this is the kernel of the development articulated here 
by Marx. When Marx says, "Man appropriates his total essence . . . ," the 
German for "total essence" is Allseitiges Wesen, therefore an all-sided 
essence. It is the all-sided as opposed to the one-sided. The one-sided is 
an abstraction, and we could not have a concept of the one-sided if we did 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 


n0 t have a certain anticipation of what would be the all-sided, the total. 
What prevails is not dogmatic reductionism but the category of totality. If 
there is room for Utopia, it is the Utopia of totality. Perhaps this is not far 
from Hegel's concept of reconciliation. 

Heed we say that Marx's attention to the totality of appropriation is 
reminiscent of religious thinking? I do not want to emphasize this aspect, 
because it would offer too easy a way for theologians to deal with Marx, as 
if he set forth a laicization of religious thought. We must accept Marx 
precisely in his attempt to speak in new terms of what he calls emancipa- 
tion. 4 I have already quoted the expression, "the true resurrection of 
nature" (137); surely embedded here is a reminiscence of the Christian 
theology of Easter. Redemption, as Jurgen Moltmann has suggested, is the 
Easter of humanity. We must not make a mixture of Marxism and Chris- 
tianity but perhaps think with both in a creative way. Just as Heidegger 
observes that poetry and philosophy sit on two different peaks and do not 
see the same thing, 5 we should say the same about Marxism and 

The lyricism of Marx's quasi-religious language on emancipation en- 
courages us to read this section as Utopian. Marx speaks of the emancipation 
of all senses qua human senses from the tyranny of having (139). A 
contemporary of Marx, Moses Hess, introduced this category of having 
into philosophy (a category that will return in Gabriel Marcel). In the 
Twenty-One Sheets, Hess says that humanity now has no being, it has only 
having; the opposition is between having and being. For Marx the relation 
of having, of possession, means something very precise: the relationship 
that dominates when private property reigns. Marx borrows from Hess the 
idea that having is estrangement not in an abstract form but as an actual 
alienation of all human senses. Only the suppression of private property 
will emancipate all human senses and qualities. As Marx will point out in 
The German Ideology, criticizing Feuerbach, even the character of nature 
is a product of. industry and of the state of society (62). Where are there 
trees that human beings have not yet felled or planted? Perhaps only in the 
desert may we find nature before humanity. What we know, therefore, is 
a humanized — or dehumanized — nature. Consequently, our eye is itself 
estranged by seeing the ugly alterations of nature by humanity itself. The 
human eye is what it sees, and what it sees is already altered by the relation 
to property. To look at things displayed in a shop window is different 
depending on whether we can or cannot buy them. There is nothing like 

6 4 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

pure sight ; that is the meaning of this passage. Once again we have to put 
even the human senses within the process of totality to ward off the 
abstraction of a Feuerbach, the abstraction of a psychology of perception, 
and so on. 

• Put in subjective terms, emancipation means the recovery of all human 
forces, all essential human powers, including all the human senses. Im- 
portantly, Marx incorporates among the human senses "not only the five 
senses but also the so-called mental senses" (141). The translation here is 
too modest ; the German says gets tigen Sinne, spiritual senses. The spiritual 
senses are "the practical senses (will, love, etc.) — in a word, human sense. 
. . ." Through the category of totality we deliver the concept of sense from 
its narrowness by rebuilding the human framework of which it is merely 
an abstraction. The category of totality not only preserves us from reduc- 
tionism; it also is professed against reductionism. Reductionism reduces 
humanity to ideas, work, property, or something else. The concept of a 
humanized nature or naturalized humanity — the concept of the emanci- 
pation of all human senses and qualities — becomes a critical tool by which 
to read reality. 

A corollary of this position is that the natural sciences, as an exercise of 
our spiritual senses, are themselves abstractions if separated from industry. 

[NJatural science has invaded and transformed human life all the more practically 
through the medium of industry; and has prepared human emancipation, although 
its immediate effect had to be the furthering of the dehumanization of man . Industry 
is the actual, historical relationship of nature, and therefore of natural science, to 
man. (142-43) 

This quotation is very striking for a reading of Marcuse, Habermas, and 
all those who say that at the center of each epistemological sphere lies an 
"interest." Those who have read Habermas know he says that we have 
several interests, among them an interest in controlling nature, and that 
the latter governs the empirical sciences. The empirical sciences are not 
without presupposition; they presuppose a nature that we exploit by in- 
dustry. For Habermas industry is the presupposition of the natural sci- 
ences. We would not be interested in the natural sciences if we did not 
have this practical relation to them through industry. The question of the 
real status of epistemology in relation to praxis is raised. As many current 
trends argue, there is no autonomy to the sciences; they all belong to this 
totality of interest. "Industry is the actual, historical relationship of nature 
... to man." This historical relationship is based on a history of needs. 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript" 


The problem The German Ideology confronts is how everything is mediated 
by the history of our needs through the process of labor. Apart from the 
history of our needs established in labor, in industry, we do not know what 
nature is. To say that there is one basis for human" life and another for 
science is, says Marx, a lie. The nature which develops in human history, 
nature as it develops through industry, has an anthropological status itself 
(143)- ^ e natura ' sciences are not autonomous; they do not exist simply 
unto themselves. 

Another corollary of the emphasis on totality is that the division of labor 
is one key to the concept of ideology. The division of labor is itself a figure 
of estrangement. "The division of labor is the economic expression of the 
social character of labor within the estrangement" (159)- The fragmenta- 
tion of labor is the fragmentation of human being. This fragmentation 
explains why we do not know the meaning of objectification, the expression 
of oneself in a work. As we have seen, ideology represents the division of 
labor that abstracts intellectual life from the rest of human existence. 

In conclusion, one of the issues remaining after a reading of the "Third 
Manuscript" is the status of the concept of totality as the anticipation of 
the appropriation by humanity of its scattered forces. In question, there- 
fore, is the status of the concept of appropriation as itself the critical tool. 
This issue will be raised mainly by the Frankfurt School. These thinkers 
ask whether we can have critical social sciences without a project of eman- 
cipation. We may take this question as at least the content of a project. 
Without this project, human beings are merely like ants or bees; they 
simply observe, describe, analyze, and so on. Without a certain historical 
movement toward reappropriation, human beings are nothing more. It is 
the concept of appropriation which finally gives sense to the concept of 
creation. We rediscover that we are creative to the extent that we have a 
project of appropriation. 

I think the fundamental discussion between Christianity and Marxism 
should be put at the level described here. Marx's claim is that the project 
of appropriation is in fact the most atheistic project conceivable, because 
the appropriation of humanity's strength, its forces, is at the same time the 
abolition of the concept of creation as a religious concept. Marx is most 
adamantly atheist, therefore, not when he is a materialist but when he is a 
humanist, that is, to the extent that he is a complete humanist. In his very 
interesting discussion on this topic (144—46), Marx says that when accom- 
plished humanism and communism are achieved, people will no longer 


Marx: The "Third Manuscript 

need to be atheist. They will no longer need to negate something, but will 
rather assert themselves positively. Atheism, as the protest against some- 
thing, will be abolished along with religion. The Utopian character of this 
section is enhanced by the anticipation of a time when the negation of 
estrangement will no longer be part of human beings' self-assertion. The 
concept of creation will be reappropriated in a way consonant with its use 
in describing the process of objectification. Once more in Marx, the end 
result enlightens the starting point. 

Marx goes on to claim that abolition of the religious concept of creation 
and abolition of atheism also entail abolition of the question raised by 
religion, the question of origins. Marx says that the question of origins 
proceeds from an abstraction. He argues — and I do not know whether it 
is a fallacy or not — that the question itself must be canceled. To raise the 
question of what existed before human beings is to imagine that I do not 
exist, and I cannot do that. Because human beings are the center of all 
questions, I cannot raise a question which supposes that humanity does 
not exist. 

You postulate them [nature and human being] as non-existent, and yet you want 
me to prove them to you as existing. Now I say to you: Give up your abstraction 
and you will also give up your question [the abstraction from nature] . Or if you 
want to hold on to your abstraction, then be consistent, and if you think of man 
and nature as non-existent, then think of yourself as non-existent, for you too are 
surely nature and man. Don't think, don't ask me, for as soon as you think and 
ask, your abstraction from the existence of nature and man has no meaning. (145) 

Therefore the question itself is ideological as an abstraction from the fact 
that I am now existent and a part of nature. 

It seems, then, that we must go so far as to suppress the question of 
Leibniz, why is there something rather than nothing. Marx's position also 
counters that of Heidegger who, in The Essence of Reasons, says that the 
question of the principle of reason, that something in fact exists, is the 
philosophical question. Marx's argument confirms my claim that his stance 
here is very Fichtean. Fichte's entire philosophy is based on the reduction 
of the question of the origin to human self-assertion. For Marx, the question 
why is there something rather than nothing is finally the problem overcome 
by accomplished communism. 

Marx's concept of the creation of humanity through labor is the ultimate 
point of a movement starting with the concept of autonomy in Kant and 
including the self-positing self-assertion in Fichte, Hegel's concept of Spirit 

Marx: The "Third Manuscript 


certain of itself, and Feuerbach's species being (Gattungswesen). The 
whole movement is atheistic, or rather it points toward a state where the 
ne gation of God would no longer be needed, where human self-assertion 
would no longer imply the negation of a negation. Religion may still have 
a claim here to the extent that this movement implies not merely an atheistic 
humanism but something else. In the same way that this movement incor- 
porates an atheism beyond atheism, perhaps it is also with some god beyond 
god that the ultimate debate should be braved. There may be some con- 
nection between the two claims. This, however, is another matter. I want 
only to allude to the question 01 religion here. We must not transform 
Marxism into an apologetics for Christianity, that is the worst thing we 
could do. We must preserve the sense of conflict and not try to mix things 
together falsely. 

In the next lecture we shall turn to The German Ideology. We shall focus 
the analysis on the concept of the real individual, a concept which takes 
the place of self-consciousness in Feuerbach. As we shall see, the conflict 
with Feuerbach will center precisely on this change in emphasis from 
consciousness to the real individual. 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

In this and the following lecture we shall examine The German Ideology. 
These two lectures will complete my analysis of Marx. We shall then turn 
to discuss the interpretation of ideology as it has unfolded within the 
Marxist movement as a whole. I am especially interested in the controversy 
that has developed in Marxism between the structuralist and the so-called 
humanist interpretations of ideology. I had hoped to spend more time 
analyzing the humanistic perspective — people like Lukacs and Garaudy — 
but my discussion will focus on the structuralist approach as exemplified 
in the work of Louis Althusser. Following this review, we shall move to 
Mannheim and then to Weber, and in particular to Weber's problem of the 
legitimation of authority. After Weber we shall examine Habermas, and 
we shall finally conclude the discussion of ideology by reference to Geertz, 
at which point I shall also offer a few thoughts of my own. 

In The German Ideology we have a Marxist and no longer a pre-Marxist 
text. Because of this, it is extremely important to locate precisely the text's 
conceptual framework. Even for those like Althusser who tend to discard 
the writings of the early Marx, this is a text of transition. We may say, 
then, that The German Ideology is at least a text of transition if not the 
basis for all Marx's properly Marxist writings. The question is to situate 
correctly the gap or, as Althusser will say, the epistemological break be- 
tween Marx's early ideological and anthropological texts on the one hand, 
and his mature writings on the other, so as to decide on which side of the 
break The German Ideology lies. (For purposes of discussion, we shall refer 
to Marx alone as author of The German Ideology, even though the work 
was a joint effort of Marx and Engels.) 

This question of the break is critical because The German Ideology opens 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


two perspectives at the same time, and Marxist interpretation will vary 
decisively depending on which of these two alternatives is ranked more 
high'y- What The German Ideology shifts away from is clear: entities like 
consciousness, self -consciousness, and species being; concepts all belong- 
ing t0 tne Feuerbachian mode of thought and therefore to the Hegelian 
trend in German philosophy. If these concepts are now overcome, how- 
eve r, it is less obvious for which new concepts the battle is waged. The 
first alternative presented by The German Ideology is that the old concepts 
are replaced by such entities as modes of production, forces of production, 
relations of production, and clashes, the typical Marxist vocabulary. Ac- 
cording to this approach, these objective entities may be denned without 
any allusion either to individual subjects or, consequently, to the alienation 
of these subjects. If this alternative is chosen, the real starting point of 
Marxism involves the emergence of the notion of the real basis. The real 
basis becomes the infrastructure, and ideology is related to this basis as a 
superstructure. As we shall see, the major trend in orthodox Marxism 
focuses on these concepts of real basis and superstructure, of infrastructure 
and superstructure. The emphasis is on objective entities to the exclusion 
of the individuals involved in these processes. From this perspective, The 
German Ideology is Marxist in the sense that it pushes to the forefront a 
material basis of anonymous entities instead of idealistic representations 
and fantasies centered around consciousness. Consciousness is regarded as 
completely on the side of ideology; no implication of consciousness is said 
to exist in the real material basis as such. 

The second perspective opened by The German Ideology has a rather 
dissimilar orientation. Classes and all other collective entities — modes of 
production, forms of production, forces, relations, and so on — are not 
considered to be the ultimate basis but rather only the basis for an objective 
science. In this more radical approach, this perspective argues, the objec- 
tive entities are supported by the real life of actual, living individuals. The 
concept of real life as led by real individuals is given a central position. In 
this case, the epistemological break in Marx occurs not between the world 
of consciousness as ideological and some collective, anonymous entities but 
within the notion of humanity itself. The distinction is said to be between 
the Young Hegelians' emphasis on humanity as consciousness and Marx's 
emphasis in The German Ideology on humanity as real, living individuals. 
If the dividing line in Marx is placed here, the interpretation of the whole 
meaning of Marxism is quite different. No longer is the structure of Capital 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

the ultimate basis; instead, Capital reflects a methodological abstraction 
ultimately rooted in the lives of individuals. It is particularly important to 
take a stand on this interpretation, because the concept of ideology Marx 
utilizes in this text is not opposed to science but to the real. (We shall leave 
for the later lectures on the forms of Marxism coming after Marx how the 
conception of ideology is changed when opposed to science instead of 
reality.) In The German Ideology the ideological is the imaginary as opposed 
to the real. Consequently, the definition of the concept of ideology depends 
on what is the reality — class or individual — to which it is contrasted. 

In this and the following lecture, we shall stay as close as possible to the 
text of The German Ideology, and by preserving the possibility of the two 
readings we, shall see in fact the ambiguity the text allows. This work is 
like Wittgenstein's duck/rabbit image (although I don't know which would 
be the rabbit in this case!) : we may read it as a text about real individuals 
in their real lives or as a text about classes, a vocabulary of production and 
no longer a vocabulary of life. My own analysis of The German Ideology 
will proceed in the following manner: I shall first make some additional 
introductory comments to clarify the problem of ideology raised by the 
text and then consider the work's six or seven basic concepts. Finally, I 
will discuss the two threads of thought that appear in the text. In the 
present lecture I shall concentrate on presentation of the concepts; I reserve 
more for the next lecture comparison of the two alternate readings. 

Regarding the text itself, the edition we are discussing is a translation 
only of part i of the German original. I should make one comment about 
the translation: the order of passages is not always the same as in the 
German text. The editor has chosen a more didactic order of presentation, 
although this loses the import of some passages which are better read 
following others, as in the original. The text itself was prepared for pub- 
lication by Marx but never actually published during his lifetime. Lost for 
many years, the text was recovered and published for the first time only in 
1932. I shall not spend much if any time on the so-called "Theses on 
Feuerbach," which are added to our volume as a supplementary text, even 
though these theses are so cryptic that they must really be read in coordi- 
nation with the book's section on Feuerbach. One of these theses is helpful, 
however, in situating our problematic as we begin. The "Theses" end with 
the following renowned thesis: "The philosphers have only interpreted the 
world, in various ways; the point is to change it" (123). Can we change 
without interpreting, this is the problem. This is precisely the problem of 
our investigation of ideology. 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


In the preface which opens The German Ideology, we have the first 
gU gg es tion of ideology's meaning in the text. Fundamentally the term 
designates the Young Hegelians and therefore all that proceeded from the 
decomposition of the Hegelian system. It is from this basis that the concept 
is extended to all forms of production which are not properly economic, 
such as law, the state, art, religion, and philosophy. We must never forget, 
then, the initial basis of this concept as a polemical term addressed to a 
certain school of thought. Marx begins: "Hitherto men have constantly 
made up for themselves false conceptions about themselves, about what 
they are and what they ought to be. They have arranged their relationships 
according to their ideas. ..." The German for "conceptions" and also for 
"ideas" is Vorstellungen, representations. The Vorstellungen are the way in 
which we look at ourselves and not the way in which we do, we act, we 
are. "They have arranged their relationships according to their ideas of 
God, of normal man, etc. The phantoms of their brains have got out of 
their hands. They, the creators, have bowed down before their creations." 
Once more we have the image of reversal. What was the product becomes 
the master. The model of alienation is present without the term being 
used. We must not forget this, because some commentators maintain that 
the concept of alienation has disappeared from this work. Marx continues: 

Let us liberate them from the chimeras, the ideas, dogmas, imaginary beings under 
the yoke of which they are pining away. Let us revolt against the rule of thoughts. 
Let us teach men, says one, to exchange these imaginations for thoughts which 
correspond to the essence of man ; says the second, to take up a critical attitude to 
them; says the third, to knock them out of their heads; and — existing reality will 
collapse. (37) 

The ideology criticized here claims that in order to change people's lives, 
it is enough to change their thoughts. The figures challenged in the final 
sentence of the quotation are, repectively, Feuerbach, Bruno Bauer, and 

In part 1 of Marx's text, Feuerbach is the test case for German ideology 
to the extent that, as we remember, he claimed to reduce religious repre- 
sentations to the ideas of human beings. Marx contends that Feuerbach's 
reduction remains in a sense a religious idea, since consciousness is pro- 
vided with all the attributes retained from the religious framework of ideas. 
What Marx calls the Young Hegelians' demand to interpret reality involves 
a use of critique on their part in which they always move within the realm 
of thought; they reduce one type of thought to another, but they remain 
within the framework of thought. "This demand [of the Young Hegelians] 


Marx: The German Ideology (i ) 

to change consciousness amounts to a demand to interpret reality in another 
way, i.e. to recognise it by means of another interpretation" (41). Thus, 
interpretation always moves among interpretations. Marx's perspective 
here helps to explain further his eleventh thesis on Feuerbach, already 
quoted, that the philosophers have only interpreted the world while the 
point is to change it (123). Interpretation is a process that occurs within 
representation, and it therefore remains ideological in that sense. For Marx 
the problem is that before moving to change the answers, the mode of 
questioning must be changed, the questions must be shifted. "It has not 
occurred to any one of these philosophers to inquire into the connection 
of German philosophy with German reality, the relation of their criticism 
to their owti material surroundings" (41). 

The occurrence of the word "material" in this passage allows me to 
introduce an inquiry into the basic concepts of The German Ideology. I 
want to survey the vocabulary of the text before considering the alternative 
ways it may be interpreted. The central term is "material," which is always 
opposed to "ideal." In this work the material and the real are exactly 
synonymous, as are the ideal and the imaginary. The following statement 
highlights Marx's orientation: . 

The premises from which we begin are not arbitrary ones, not dogmas, but real 
premises from which abstraction can only be made in the imagination. They are 
the real individuals, their activity and the material conditions under which they 
live, both those which they find already existing and those produced by their 
activity. These premises can thus be verified in a purely empirical way. (42) 

Note first that the adjective "real" modifies premises. The premises are 
Voraussetzungen, presuppositions. In opposition to these real premises are 
abstraction and imagination. When Marx continues that the real premises 
from which he begins are "the real individuals, their activity and material 
conditions under which they live . . . ," the two possibilities of interpreting 
The German Ideology are already present. Real individuals and material 
conditions are put together; perhaps the basis finally is individuals in their 
material conditions. Possibly this is a way of preserving the two readings. 
In any event, material conditions and real individuals are the two funda- 
mental concepts. A final observation I should make about Marx's statement 
is that when he maintains that these real premises can be verified empiri- 
cally, we should notice that they are first premises and then verified. 

On the basis of Marx's declaration, one point must be emphasized from 
the outset: anonymous structures, such as material conditions, are coupled 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


immediately by Marx with the support given to them by real individuals. 
Material conditions are always conditions for individuals. Marx underlines 
the inextricable role of living human individuals: "The first premise of all 
human history is, of course, the existence of living human individuals" 
(42). Marx enriches this role by noting the contribution humans make to 
their material conditions; this observation acts also to enlarge the notion 
of the material condition itself. "By producing their means of subsistence 
men are indirectly producing their actual material life" (42). The subject 
is still human beings. Material conditions cannot be denned without a 
certain sphere of human activity. 

From the beginning, therefore, a subtle reciprocity exists between hu- 
man activity and human dependence. On the one hand human beings act 
to produce their material conditions, and on the other hand they are also 
dependent on these conditions. Importantly, there obtains here neither an 
idependence of consciousness, which would be idealism, nor an autonomy 
of the conditions. A condition is always a condition for a certain way of 
acting. When Marx says, "The nature of individuals thus depends on the 
material conditions determining their production" (42), it is nevertheless 
the nature of individuals which remains even in this relation of dependence. 
As we can see, this concept of individual human life is quite different from 
the rather metaphysical and abstract concept of an objectification which is 
then alienated. The concept of objectification, which was still Hegelian, is 
replaced by the notion of an individual life producing under conditions 
which are themselves a given for this activity. There is a relation between 
the voluntary side of the activity and the involuntary side of the condition. 
The break with a sovereign self-consciousness arises precisely in this de- 
pendence on material conditions, determining conditions; still, conditions 
are always coupled with the concept of activity. Perhaps this is enough, 
though, about the first concept under consideration, the material and real 
and its connection either with individuals or conditions. We thus preserve 
the two possible readings of this text. 

The next concept we shall discuss is that of productive forces. This 
concept is of consequence since it introduces history into the whole argu- 
ment. History affects the anthropological basis we have just examined 
through what Marx calls the development of productive forces. The role 
of this concept has important implications for the concept of ideology; in 
an extreme and very strong statement, to which we shall return later in 
more detail, Marx says that there is no history of ideology (47). The process 
of history always comes from below, and for Marx this is precisely from 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

the development of productive forces. Life in general has no history; living 
beings like bees and ants always build their homes in the same way. There 
is, however, a history of human production. 

Connected to this concept of productive forces is the concept of the 
•modes of production, what later works will call the relations of production. 
The relationship between productive forces and the modes of production 
is significant because the structuralist and anti-humanist interpretation of 
Marx will rely principally on this interplay between forces and forms, 
between forces of production and relations of production. The relations of 
production are mainly the juridical framework, the system of property, of 
salary, and so on; they are therefore the social rules according to which the 
technological process proceeds. Marx's claim is that technology, which 
involves only the productive forces, cannot be described as existing in and 
of itself ; productive forces do not exist as such "nowhere." They are always 
caught in a certain juridical framework, a state, and so forth. Consequently, 
productive forces and forms are always interconnected. The evolutionary 
schema typical of Marx applies also at this level. Marx describes the whole 
process of history as an evolution of productive forces conjoined with an 
evolution of corresponding forms. In characterizing the division of labor 
and the forms of ownership — the consecutive evolutionary development 
of tribal, communal, feudal, and then capitalistic property — the status of 
the regime of property constitutes the form within which the forces develop 
(43—46). One trend that develops in orthodox Marxism is the claim that 
the only problem needing resolution is the discrepancy between forms and 
forces. The argument is that the capitalist structure is an obstacle to the 
development of productive forces, and therefore revolution will be the 
process by which forms and forces become harmonious. 

The third concept we shall consider is that of class, the mode of union, 
of association, resulting from the interplay between forces and forms. This 
concept is critical for our study, since the problem is whether class is the 
ultimate requisite for a theory of ideology. Some texts say that an ideology 
is always an ideology of class. In this case, it is the concept underlying a 
theory of ideology. For another kind of analysis, however, there may be a 
genealogy of class. Therefore, determination of the role of class depends 
on how we locate the concept in Marx's analysis. In The German Ideology 
Marx introduces the concept of class in the following way: 

The fact is, therefore, that definite individuals who are productively active in a 
definite way enter into these definite social and political relations. . . . The social 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


tructure and the State are continually evolving out of .the life-process of definite 
nC jividuals, but of individuals, not as they may appear [erscheinen] in their own 
other people's imagination [Vorstellung] , but as they really are; i.e. as they 

0 erate, produce materially, and hence as they work under definite material limits, 
p fesu ppositions and conditions independent of their will. (46-47) 

1 would amend the translation slightly. Vorstellung is not imagination but 
rather conception, idea, or representation. Marx contrasts the way certain 
things appear (erscheinen) as phenomena, that is, in representations, with 
the way they actually are. We must preserve the term Vorstellung, since it 
is the basic notion for what ideology really means. 

On the basis of the statement just quoted, I again surmise that the key 
concept at work is the individual under certain conditions, but where the 
conditions belong to the structure of the individual. The class structure 
belongs to what people are and not to what they "imagine," not to what 
they merely conceive themselves to be. Therefore, we could say that this 
structure is an ontological structure; it is a mode of being together which 
precedes the way in which people represent their situation. The text of the 
original German makes this point even more strongly. When Marx says 
"as they really are," the German for "really" is wirklich, and wirklich has 
the same root as wirken, which has been translated by "as they operate." 
So in German to be real and to operate are the same thing. To be is to be 
operating, and the class is a way of operating together. Once more the 
concept of operating individuals supports the concept of class; necessary 
to the structure is "the life-process of definite [bestimmter, determinate or 
determined] individuals." Here is an initial anticipation of the relation 
between the so-called superstructure and the so-called infrastructure ; the 
class is an infrastructure, but as a mode of being together it is also an 
activity under certain conditions. 

The text then leads us to the important concept of historical materialism, 
although the term itself is not used and in fact is not found in Marx but 
only in later Marxism. 1 This concept proceeds from the description of the 
set of material conditions without which there would be no history. For 
The German Ideology, historical materialism is the description of the ma- 
terial conditions which give a history to humanity. The editor of the English 
translation has entitled this section "History: Fundamental Conditions" 
(48). Historical materialism is not yet a philosophy, a theory, a doctrine, 
a dogma; instead, it is a way of reading human life on the basis of the 
material conditions of its activity. 

7 6 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

Marx summarizes the nature of historical development articulated by 
historical materialism in three points. Historical materialism incorporates 
first the production of the means to satisfy human material needs (48) 
When economists speak of need, says Marx, they speak of an entity which 
*is an abstraction. They neglect the fact that needs receive their historical 
dimension only from the production of the means of satisfy them. More 
precisely, then, the production of material life itself is historical, but needs 
as such are not. This is true to such an extent that the second stage of this 
history is the production of new needs (49). When we produce only the 
means to satisfy existing needs, this production is limited to the horizon 
of these given needs. The second basic element of historical consequence 
arises only in the production of new needs. Only then is there a history 0 f 
desire, as we know well in the present age of advertising, this permanent 
creation of needs in order to sell and so on. 

The third moment which enters into historical development is the re- 
production of humanity through the family (49). Comparison of Marx and 
Hegel on this topic is instructive. In Hegel's Philosophy of Right, the family 
represents the social structure in its most natural and immediate phase; 
economic life is considered later. For Marx, however, the structure of the 
family proceeds from the history of needs as part of the history of produc- 
tion. Here the history of the family is that it is first an economic cell, then 
it is destroyed by industry, and so on. The family is kept in the stream of 
the productive forces. Should we say, therefore, that historical materialism 
breaks completely with human beings, with the humanistic basis? We 
cannot if we keep in mind this fundamental declaration: "By social we 
understand the co-operation of several individuals, no matter under what 
conditions, in what manner and to what end" (50). Zusammenwirken, 
cooperation, is always behind a collective entity. The collective entities 
which are the object of historical materialism are constantly referred by 
Marx to the individuals who produce them. 

We shall introduce as the fifth main concept of this text the concept of 
ideology itself. For Marx the ideological is that which is reflected by means 
of representations. It is the representational world as opposed to the his- 
torical world, the latter having a consistency of its own thanks to activity, 
the conditions of activity, the history of needs, the history of production, 
etc. The concept of reality covers all the processes that can be described 
under the title of historical materialism. Once more, ideology is not yet 
opposed to science, as will be the case in modem Marxism, but to reality. 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


I take as a central text on ideology some lines that we have already men- 
oned: "The social structure and the State are continually evolving out of 
the life-process of definite individuals, but of individuals not as they may 
a ppear in their own or other people's imagination [Vofstellung] , but as they 
really are • • • " (4°)- The concept of ideology may be large enough to cover 
not only distortions but all representations, all Vorstellungen. Ideology may 
sometimes be a neutral concept, so neutral that, for example, Eastern 
Communism speaks of communist ideology as opposed to bourgeois ide- 
ology- Therefore, the term ideology has no necessarily negative overtone. 
It is merely contrasted to what is real, actual, loirklich. We can see how 
close this is to distortion, since not to be real is the possibility of being 
distorted. Nevertheless, the difference between these two moments must 
be preserved. 

If we preserve this difference, we realize that we cannot exclude the 
possibility that distortion is ideology in an inadequate form. This leads to 
the question whether there could be a language of real life which would be 
the first ideology, the most simple ideology. Marx responds in a paragraph 
I shall read almost line by line: "The production of ideas, of conceptions, 
of consciousness [der Ideen, Vorstellungen, des Bevmsstseins] is at first 
directly interwoven with the material activity and the material intercourse 
of men, the language of real life" (47). This concept of the language of real 
life is fundamental to our analysis; the problem of ideology is only that it 
is representation and not real praxis. The dividing line is not between false 
and true but between real and representation, between praxis and 

In concord with Geertz here, I myself shall graft the entire analysis of 
ideology on this concession — on what will at least become a concession in 
Marxist language — that there is a language of real life which exists before 
all distortions, a symbolic structure of action that is absolutely primitive 
and ineluctable. Marx continues, 

Conceiving, thinking, the mental intercourse of men, appear at this stage as the 
direct efflux [Ausfluss, e-menation] of their material behavior. The same applies to 
mental production as expressed in the language of politics, law, morality, religion, 
metaphysics, etc. of a people. Men are the producers of their conceptions, ideas, 
etc. — real, active men, as they are conditioned by a definite development of their 
productive forces and of the intercourse [Verkehrs] corresponding to these, up to 
its furthest forms. (47) 

"Intercourse" is the translation in this text of the German Verkehr. Verkehr 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

is a word that will disappear from Marx's vocabulary and be replaced by 
Verhaltnis, which has been translated by "relation" or "relationship." The 
paragraph goes on: "Consciousness can never be anything else than con- 
scious existence, and the existence of men is their actual life-process." Here 
in German there is a play on words that neither the English nor the French 
translation can duplicate. Marx stresses that consciousness (Bevmsstsein ) 
is conscious existence (bewusstes Sein). Once more, consciousness is not 
autonomous but is instead connected with human beings' "actual life- 

The distortions of ideology appear to the extent that we forget that our 
thoughts are a production ; at this point the reversal occurs. Marx explains, 
in his famous lines on the camera obscura, which close the paragraph we 
have been discussing: "If in all ideology men and their circumstances 
appear upside-down, as in a camera obscura, this phenomenon arises just 
as much from their historical life-process as the inversion of objects on the 
retina does from their physical life-process" (47). This is the sort of text 
that plays a great role in orthodox Marxism. The image is a physical one — 
we can do nothing about that — and indeed the image in a camera is 
inverted. There appears, therefore, a mechanicistic approach to the prob- 
lem of ideology in what is really only a metaphor. It is a metaphor of the 
reversal of images, but it proceeds as a comparison involving four terms. 
The ideological reversal is to the life-process as the image in perception is 
to the retina. But what is an image on the retina, I cannot say, since there 
are images only for consciousness. Hence, this metaphor is intriguing but 
also possibly deceiving. 

Later we shall see how Louis Althusser tries in fact to get rid of this 
comparison to the inversion of the camera image. When an image is in- 
verted, he maintains, it is still the same. Thus, Althusser goes so far as to 
say that the inverted image belongs to the same ideological world as its 
original. As a result, he claims, we must introduce a notion quite different 
from inversion, that of an epistemological break. (Althusser cites Spinoza 
as a good example of someone whose work articulated this perspective.) 
Althusser's imagery is that we must break with the ordinary perception of 
the sun rising and proceed to the astronomically accurate observation that 
there is no sunrise or sunset, except in the narrow perceptual sense. The 
change is not an inversion but a break, a coupure. (The word coupure was 
introduced in French by Gaston Bachelard to represent his claim that all 
scientific progress occurs through epistemological breaks.) For Althusser, 
therefore, the notion of an epistemological break must be substituted for 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


that of the camera obscura, since an inverted image is always the same. To 
invert Hegelianism may be anti-Hegelian, but this inversion remains never- 
theless within a Hegelian framework. 

This Althusserian insight is not what I want to stress about Marx's text, 
however. I am interested here not so much in the false clarity of the image 
of reversal but in the range of possibilities preserved by Marx's analysis, a 
range extending from the language of real life to radical distortion. I 
emphasize that the concept of ideology covers this full range. Also of 
interest is that which ideology is being related to, what Marx calls the 
actual life- process; this is the ultimate point of reference. Human beings 
are always the point of reference, but they are human beings under histor- 
ical conditions. 

In any event, this unfortunate image of the camera, the camera obscura, 
brings forth some other unfortunate characterizations also. In the text they 
are no more than images, but they have been frozen in orthodox Marxism. 
I think particularly of the terms "reflex" and "echo." "We set out from real, 
active men, and on the basis of their real life-process we demonstrate the 
development of the ideological reflexes and echoes of this life-process. The 
phantoms formed in the human brain are also, necessarily, sublimates of 
their material life-process ..." (47). People live but they have echoes of 
this life-process in their brains. Here ideology appears as a kind of smoke 
or fog, something that is secondary in terms of production. Notice also the 
word "sublimates" that appears in the text. This word has become popular 
through Freud, but just like the camera obscura, the retinal image, it has 
a physical origin. The sublimate is what evaporates in some chemical 
processes (more those of alchemy than chemistry) ; it is a deposit at the 
upper part of the vessel. Therefore the sublimate is the evaporation of the 
product. The expressions reflexes, echoes, sublimates, and retinal image 
all entail something evolving out of something else. 

In later Marxism, the relation established between reality and the echo 
or reflex leads to a permanent disparaging of all autonomous intellectual 
activity. Evidence of this perspective is also available in Marx's own famous 
statement that intellectual activities have no history. 

Morality, religion, metaphysics, all the rest of ideology and their coresponding 
forms of consciousness, thus no longer retain the semblance of independence. They 
have no history, no development; but men, developing their material production 
and their material intercourse [Verkehr], alter, along with this their real existence, 
their thinking and the products of their thinking. (47) 

By his use of the phrase "all the rest of ideology," Marx includes all the 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

spheres involving representations in general, all cultural productions — art, 
law, and so on; the scope is extremely wide. The text is less strong than it 
may appear, however, since Marx says, "men, developing their material 
production — alter, along with this their real existence, their thinking and 
•the products of their thinking." There is, therefore, a shadow history. 

Marx's statement oscillates between a truism that people first live and 
then speak, think, and so on, and a fallacy that there is finally, for example, 
no history of art, to say nothing of a history of religion. The truism is the 
famous and, I would say, wonderful assertion that follows immediately the 
lines just cited: "Life is not determined by consciousness, but conscious- 
ness by life" (47). This is a classic assertion in Marxism. If we call con- 
sciousness,, not the modem English sense of consciousness, more or less 
synonymous with awareness, but the capacity for projecting objects, then 
it signifies the Kantian and Hegelian world of having objects, of organizing 
an objective world in representation; it is the whole phenomenal world as 
construed mentally. This is the sense of consciousness preserved by Freud ; 
when he speaks of consciousness, it is as reality-testing. Marx's claim is 
that reality-testing is not something autonomous but rather a part of the 
whole process of the living individual. In analyzing this contrast between 
life being determined by consciousness and consciousness being deter- 
mined by life, Marx says: "In the first method of approach the starting 
point is consciousness taken as the living individual ; in the second method , 
which conforms to real life, it is the real living individuals themselves, and 
consciousness is considered solely as their consciousness" (47). Thus, if 
we take Marx's statement in a more narrow sense, as saying that nothing 
happens in consciousness, then it is not too interesting; on the other hand 
if we take it more broadly, as saying that it is the consciousness of the real 
individual, then perhaps the statement is less striking. 

Later Marxist theory of ideology continues to struggle with this ambi- 
guity; as we shall see in future lectures, it attempts to find a position of 
equilibrium in the famous proposition by Engels that the economic situa- 
tion is the cause in the last instance, but the superstructure also reacts on 
the infrastructure. The autonomy of the ideological spheres is preserved, 
but the primacy of the economic is still asserted. The Marxists therefore 
try to find their way between two statements: that there is no history of 
consciousness, of ideology, but only a history of production, and that 
nevertheless the ideological spheres have a certain autonomy. 

That ideology covers much more ground than religion, in the sense of 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


Feuerbach, is proved by the fact that science too is a part of the ideological 
sphere. For science the issue is the same as that which we have already 
discussed: there is the possibility of a real science when it is involved in 
real life. Science is real when it is the science of real Hfe; at that point it is 
not a representation, a Vorstellung, but the presentation of the practical 
activity, the practical process, of human beings. Marx's comments on this 
matter are most important, because they define the status of his own book. 
The book is itself an ideological work in the sense that it is not life but the 
presentation of life. Marx writes: "Where speculation ends — in real life — 
there real, positive science begins': the representation of the practical ac- 
tivity, of the practical process of development of men" (48). We may thus 
relate this real, positive science to what Marx called, one page earlier, "the 
language of real life" (47). 

We must correct one important mistake in the translation of the present 
passage, however. Where the translation has "the representation of practical 
life," the word "representation" is incorrect. In the original German the 
word is no longer Vorstellung but Darstellung, the expose of life. Marx's 
utilization of Darstellung has its antecedent in Hegel . In the famous preface 
to the Phenomenology of Spirit, Hegel says that the task of philosophy is to 
give the Darstellung, the presentation, of the whole process. Marx here 
retains, then, the important Hegelian concept that beyond distorted rep- 
resentation there exists real presentation. Marx must leave room for such 
a concept because a book like Capital must justify its epistemological status 
in relation to ideology ; its status is that of the presentation, the Darstellung, 
of the practical activity, the practical processes. "Empty talk about con- 
sciousness ceases, and real knowledge has to take its place. When reality is 
depicted, philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its 
medium of existence" (48). The word "depicted" is the translation of the 
German verb form for Darstellung. I am not sure whether in English 
depiction may be too close to fiction. Still, the word is also used in the 
English translation of Wittgenstein's Tractatus. So there is something 
which may replace philosophy, at least to the extent that philosophy is the 
philosophy of consciousness, as in the German ideologies Marx criticizes. 
A place exists for a science of real life, which therefore must assume the 
status of the language of real life, the status of the discourse of praxis. 

This issue will lead us in future lectures to the question whether we may 
construe a concept of praxis that does not have from the beginning a 
symbolic dimension so that it might have and receive its own language. If 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

this language is not already constitutive of action, to appropriate Kenneth 
Burke's concept of symbolic action, then we cannot have this positiv e 
concept of ideology. We must leave room not only for a language of real 
life, for real science as Darstellung, though; we must also leave room f or 
some logical activity that occurs in relation to this reality, namely, the 
necessity of building some abstractions, mythological abstractions. We 
must leave room for these mythological abstractions because all the con- 
cepts in a work — in Marx's case, production, conditions of production 
and so on — are constructs. 

In The German Ideology this logical activity is anticipated if not by an 
explicitly transcendental language then at least by a language of the con- 
dition of <£he possibility of description itself. "At the best [philosophy's] 
place can only be taken by a summing-up of the most general results, 
abstractions which arise from the observation of the historical development 
of men" (48). For my part I would say that this statement typifies the 
epistemological status of what Marx called the "premises" of his materialist 
method (42). Premises are inevitable; we cannot start merely by looking 
at things. We must read other phenomena, and we need some keys in order 
to read them. Marx continues: "Viewed apart from real history, these 
abstractions have in themselves no value whatsoever. They can only serve 
to facilitate the arrangement of historical material, to indicate the sequence 
of its separate strata" (48). This is not that far from what Max Weber calls 
ideal types. In sociology we cannot proceed by means of the naked eye 
alone. We must have such notions as forces and forms, and these are not 
given in reality but are constructs. Therefore, Marx as the ideologist of 
real life must rely first on a language of real life, second, on a real science 
of praxis, and third, on some abstractions allowing him to construe this 
science. And Marx insists that all these factors must be referred back to 
their origin in human beings. His methods has premises and "Its premises 
are men ..." (47). 

After discussing at such length the concept of ideology, let us now turn 
to the concept of consciousness, which is the central concept of German 
ideology. Marx wrote The German Ideology to oppose the import granted 
this concept. If the first part of the text is on Feuerbach, it is because 
Feuerbach made self-consciousness — the self-production of human beings 
by means of consciousness — the key. For Marx, consciousness is not a 
concept from which we depart but one at which we must arrive. The 
question of consciousness arises only after having considered four prior 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 


men ts: the production of material life, the history of needs, the repro- 
duction of life, and the cooperation of individuals in social entities (48- 
Consciousness is therefore not the ground but an effect. 

Q n |y now, after having considered four moments, four aspects of the primary 
historical relationship, do we find that man also possesses "consciousness," but, 
even so, not inherent, not "pure" consciousness. From the start the "spirit" is 
afflicted with the curse of being "burdened" with matter, which here makes its 
appearance in the form of agitated layers of air, sounds, in short, of language. 

Language appears, we may say, as the body of consciousness. (A similar 
passage in the Manuscripts, which I passed over in lecture, makes the same 
point [143]-) 

Language is as old as consciousness, language is practical consciousness that exists 
also for other men, and for that reason alone it really exists for me personally as 
well; language, like consciousness, only arises from the need, the necessity, of 
intercourse with other men. (50-51) 

This is language as discourse. To my mind Marx's whole description of 
language here does not belong to a theory of class but to a fundamental 
anthropology, because all human beings speak, and they all have language. 
This proves that the concept of intercourse itself, of exchange, belongs to 
this radical anthropological layer, no longer in the sense of consciousness 
but of life, of living individuals. "Where there exists a relationship it exists 
for me: the animal does not enter into 'relations' with anything, it does not 
enter into any relation at all" (51). The break between animal and humans 
typical of the Manuscripts can be raised here also on the basis of language. 
I wonder what Marx would say now about the discovery of some kind of 
language in bees and so on? 

The final concept I would like to consider is that of the division of labor. 
Our entire enumeration of the basic concepts leads us to this concept ; it is 
a term that takes the place of alienation in this text. What we need to 
discuss is whether the division of labor takes the place of alienation as a 
synonym or as a substitute. This question is still controversial among 
Marxists. Louis Althusser, for example, claims that the concept of alien- 
ation has disappeared from The German Ideology; he maintains that it has 
been replaced by the division of labor and that the latter concept belongs 
to the same sphere as modes of production, and so on. I myself shall 
attempt to show that the concept of the division of labor in fact provides 
the connecting link here in Marx between the more anthropological con- 

8 4 

Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

cepts and the abstract structures such as class and modes of production 
because it is through the division of labor that objectified entities arise 
Therefore, I content, this concept plays the role of alienation and perhaps 
is alienation under another name. 

* In the Manuscripts the division of labor is considered more as an effect 
than as a cause. It is principally the effect of the process rendering property 
abstract. Labor has forgotten its power of creating private property, and 
private property crushes the worker under its weight. Labor is scattered 
when hired by capital, it is hired for this or that task; this fragmentation 
of labor's tasks is an effect of the abstraction of property. The division of 
labor becomes the central concept because it is the fragmentation of the 
activity o&Jabor itself. We may follow the evolution from the Manuscripts 
to The German Ideology if we consider the concept of alienation at what 
the Manuscripts calls its second stage: alienation of the activity. The 
division of labor is the synonym of this second stage. I would maintain, in 
fact, that the problem of the division of labor would not be of interest if it 
were not a fragmentation of human being. Otherwise, the division of labor 
would be merely a technological phenomenon: people work in special ways, 
and these special ways of working are part of the system of production. 
Because labor is what people do, however, it is their activity which is in 
division, decomposition, and fragmentation. The division of labor is the 
fragmentation of humanity itself as a whole. Therefore, the concept of the 
division of labor must be understood, it seems to me, from , the point of 
view of humanity as a whole, and thus still on the basis of the category of 

Marx's principal text on the division of labor comes as part of a long 
paragraph, which I quote in detail : 

finally, the division of labour offers us the first example of how, as long as man 
remains in natural society, that is, as long as a cleavage exists between the particular 
and the common interests, as long, therefore, as activity is not voluntarily, but 
naturally, divided, man's own deed becomes an alien power opposed to him, which 
enslaves him instead of being controlled by him. For as soon as the distribution of 
labour comes into being, each man has a particular, exclusive sphere of activity 
[Tatigkeit], which is forced upon him and from which he cannot escape. He is a 
hunter, a fisherman, a shepherd, or a critical critic, and must remain so if he does 
not want to lose his means of livelihood; while in communist society, where nobody 
has one exclusive sphere of activity but each can become accomplished in any 
branch he wishes, society regulates the general production and thus makes it 
possible for me to do one thing today and another tomorrow, to hunt in the morning, 

Marx: The German Ideology (i ) 

8 5 

fjgh in the afternoon, rear cattle in the evening, criticise after dinner, just as I have 
mind, without ever becoming hunter, fisherman, shepherd or critic. This fixation 
of social activity, this consolidation of what we ourselves produce into an objective 
wer above us, growing out of our control, thwarting our expectations, bringing 
to naught our calculations, is one of the chief factors in historical development up 
till now. (53) 

On the basis of this text, I do not see how we could say that the concept 
of alienation has disappeared. On the contrary, I would say that now the 
concept is more concretely described; it appears less as a metaphysical 
process, objectification inverted. The concept of the division of labor gives 
a material basis to the concept of alienation. The role of human activity 
(Tdtigkeit) is central; that the result of the division of labor is opposed to 
our activity is exactly what is at stake. 

In the German edition, the lines suggesting that the concept of alienation 
has disappeared in this text begin the paragraph following the one just 
cited in part. (They appear a few pages later in the English version.) Marx 
writes: "This 'alienation' (to use a term which will be comprehensible to 
the philosophers) can, of course, only be abolished given two practical 
premises" (56). (I shall consider the two premises in a moment.) The word 
"alienation" disappears from the vocabulary of The German Ideology be- 
cause it is a philosophical word; it belongs to the intellectual world of 
Feuerbach. If the word is now put within quotation marks, it is nevertheless 
the same concept expressed in different terms. One term is substituted for 
another, not as an exclusion of the concept but rather as a more concrete 
approach to it. All the features of estrangement are present in the way we 
are divided in our activity. Therefore, the alienation that occurs in the 
division of labor is something that affects us as individuals. It is not merely 
a process in society but a form of mutilation of the real individual. The 
German Ideology may deny the word "alienation" because it is idealistic, 
but it does not deny this concept's meaning. All the descriptions of the 
abolition of estrangement recur in this text. 

If the concept of alienation is not idealistic when transposed into the 
language of the division of labor, the same is true for the notion of a 
communist society. In Marx's previous writings, a communist society was 
more or less a dream ; here it is still a dream, but now at least it is considered 
as a real possibility because defined by its real conditions. When Marx says, 
"This 'alienation' . . . can . . . only be abolished given two practical prem- 
ises," the two premises are the development of a world market and the 


Marx: The German Ideology (i) 

constitution of a universal class throughout the world. These premises are 
sufficient for Marx to say that the concept of a communist society is not a 
Utopia, because what characterizes a Utopia is that it provides no clue f 0r 
its introduction into history. Here the overcoming of the division of labor 
is the required historic condition. 

Communism is for us not a state of affairs which is to be estabished [for Marx this 
would be Utopian], an ideal to which reality [will] have to adjust itself. W e Ca |] 
communism the real movement which abolishes the present stage of things. The 
conditions of this movement result from the premises now in existence. (56—57) 

Once again the concept of the real is central: real conditions are requisite 
for the .abolition of the division of labor, and they "result from the premises 
now in existence." 

In the next lecture I shall return briefly to the concept of the division of 
labor as a way of introducing the major issue of the session, the question 
of the two possible readings of the text. We may read The German Ideology 
by taking as a leading thread either the material conditions or the real 
individuals, and I shall try to arbitrate between them. It will be a personal 
way of reading, of course. In subsequent lectures, we shall turn to later 
Marxist texts. Unfortunately, I have read only recently in Gramsci, because 
finally he is the most interesting Marxist for our topic of ideology. He 
avoids the crude mechanicism which has prevailed in orthodox Marxism. 
In any event, though, these lectures are not a course in Marxism ; they are 
only a reading of some Marxist texts. 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

In the previous lecture, my principal goal was to enumerate the basic 
concepts of The German Ideology. This enumeration allowed me generally 
to postpone questions about the interpretation of the text, the topic that is 
our main theme in the present lecture. A brief return to the concept of the 
division of labor will provide us with the entryway to this discussion. 

Let me reiterate first that in the hierarchy of concepts in The German 
Ideology, the concept of the division of labor takes the exact place granted 
earlier in the Manuscripts to the concept of alienation. As Marx observes, 
we may say that even the concept of ideology is introduced by that of the 
division of labor. Marx's strong statement on this point is the remark with 
which I want to begin. "Division of labour only becomes truly such from 
the moment when a division of material and mental labour appears" (51). 
The division between real life and representation is itself a case of the 
division of labor. Thus, this concept has an extremely large field of appli- 
cation. In fact, one of the reasons I think that the division of labor has the 
same field of application as alienation is that we replace the latter by the 
former on the same semantic surface, the same grid of meaning. Marx 
continues, "From this moment onward consciousness can really flatter 
itself that it is something other than consciousness of existing practice, that 
it really represents something without representing something real. ..." 
This characterization is comparable to the definition of the sophist in Plato ; 
the sophist is the one who says something without saying something which 
is. In the present case we have the possibility of bracketing reality in the 
w orld of representation, of consciousness. "[F]rom now on consciousness 
1S in a position to emancipate itself from the world and to proceed to the 
formation of 'pure' theory, theology, philosophy, ethics, etc." (51-52). 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

The concept of the division of labor between work and thought may nut 
explain completely the concept of the inversion of an image, but the 
condition for having an inverted image of reality is provided by means of 
the seclusion of the realm of thought from that of praxis. 

Recognition of the double relation between reality and ideology — that 
ideology is at once separated and secluded from reality and yet also gen 
erated by it — leads us to the crucial question to which the rest of this 
session will be devoted : to what real basis is the ideological process reduced 
As I have said before, the text seems to allow two possible readings. () n 
the one hand, we may take as the real basis the anonymous entities such 
as class, forces of production, and modes of production. On the other hand 
we may ask whether these entities are themselves reducible to something 
more primitive. Perhaps it is only in the state of our society that these 
entitites have autonomy. In other words, perhaps the autonomy of the 
general, so-called economic condition is itself a product of the state of 
alienation, even if we do not use that word. 

Of the two different readings of The German Ideology, we may call the 
first an objectivist, structuralist interpretation. This interpretive path leads 
to Althusser and others, people for whom the individual disappears at least 
from the level of the fundamental concepts. The fundamental concepts 
pertain instead to the functionings of the anonymous structures. With 
someone like Engels there is no doubt that the relation between reality and 
ideology is one between infrastructure and superstructure and not between 
individual and consciousness. In the second approach to the text, on the 
other hand, the real basis is ultimately what Marx calls the real individual 
living in definite conditions. Here class is an intermediary concept isolable 
only for the sake of methodological abstractions, constructs that Marx 
allows real science will utilize, but only with the knowledge that they in 
fact remain abstractions. The argument is that these constructs are more 
appropriate to the stage of estrangement, where anonymous structures do 
appear to rule. We can summarize the alternative readings, then, by asking 
whether concepts like classes are epistemological abstractions or the real 

In my presentation of these alternatives, I shall first follow the structural 
line of interpretation. We may acquire an initial sense of this reading from 
the following fundamental statement on ideology, which I have reserved 
until this point: 

The conditions under which definite productive forces can be applied are the 
conditions of the rule of a definite class of society, whose social power, deriving 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


its property, has its practical-idealistic expression in each case in the form of 
^""state; and, therefore, every revolutionary struggle is directed against a class, 
Ivhich till' then has been in power. (94) 

The concept of the ruling class is the immediate support for a theory of 
deology- Thus, to unmask an ideology is to uncover and expose the 
tructure of power behind it. Lying behind an ideology is not an individual 

but a structure of society. 
The connection between the ruling class and ruling ideas is raised in the 

following text: 4 

The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which 
is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling, intellectual 
force. The class which has the means of material production at its disposal, has 
control at the same time over the means of mental production, so that thereby, 
generally speaking, the ideas of those who lack the means of mental production are 
subject to it. The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal expression of the 
dominant material relationships, the dominant material relationships grasped as 
ideas (64) 

There is no doubt in this passage that material relationships are the basis 
for mental production. I leave for future lectures what we can glean from 
this notion that a dominant interest becomes a dominant idea; the rela- 
tionship is not so clear, there seems a radical obscurity. To anticipate 
briefly, the question will resurface principally in our discussion of Max 
Weber. For Weber, every system of power, authority, or whatever it may 
be, always strives to legitimate itself. Therefore, he says, the place where 
ideology arises is in the system of legitimation of an order of power. My 
own question, building on Weber, is whether we can put the question of 
legitimation in terms of causation — the causality of the infrastructure on 
the superstructure — or must we express it through another conceptual 
framework, that of motivation. Is not a system of legitimation a form of 
motivation and not causation? This is the problem to which we shall return. 
In contrast, at least in the text I have quoted, ideologies are as anonymous 
as their basis, since "The ruling ideas are nothing more than the ideal 
expression of the dominant material relationships . . . grasped as ideas. 
. . ." This relationship between the dominant material relationships and 
the ruling ideas becomes the leading thread of the theory of ideology in 
orthodox Marxism, and it is increasingly interpreted in mechanistic terms 
and not at all in terms of a process of legitimation, which is still a kind of 
intellectual procedure. Thus, a first argument for reading the text on the 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

basis of anonymous entities derives from the role played by the concept of 
the ruling class as the support for ruling ideas. 

A second argument is that the ruling position in turn refers to a factor 
which Marx calls the real ground or real basis of history. This basis i s 
"expressed as an interplay between forces and forms or between forces and 
intercourse (Verkehr), what in later texts will be relations (Verhaltnisse). 
Marx examines "The form of intercourse determined by the existing p ro . 
ductive forces . . . and in its turn determining these ..." (57). Therefore 
it is quite possible to write a history of the society without mentioning 
individuals but instead relying only on recourse to forces and forms. An- 
other word Marx uses for the notion of the basis is circumstances (Um- 
stdnde). Marx speaks of 

a mass of productive forces, capital funds and conditions, which, on the one hand, 
is indeed modified by the new generation, but also on the other prescribes for it its 
condition of life and gives it a definite development, a special character. It shows 
that circumstances make men just as much as men make circumstances. (59) 

In the last sentence we have a more balanced expression; the relationship 
is circular rather than in one direction only. Orthodox Marxism will try to 
preserve this reciprocity by saying that while the infrastructure remains 
the dominant factor in the last instance, the superstructure may also react 
on the infrastructure. As we shall see more fully in following lectures, 
ascertaining what the phrase "in the last instance" really entails is the kernel 
of many of the theoretical conflicts within later Marxism. In the present 
context, the notion is that circumstances make human beings, but human 
beings also make circumstances. Marx also says that these circumstances 
are in fact what the philosophers have called "substance" (59). Philosophy 
wants to relate all changes to something that exists fundamentally, and the 
concept of substance plays this role. What the philosophers call substance, 
says Marx, is what he calls the concrete basis. 

A third argument favoring the structural reading derives from the enor- 
mous place granted in Marx's empirical descriptions to such collective 
entities as the city and country. For Marx the city/country relationship is 
an aspect of the division of labor. This relationship plays a great role in 
Chinese Marxism; there it is one of the fundamental oppositions central 
to the division of labor. At one time Stalin also tried to attack this problem 
of the division between country and city. Marx himself writes: "The 
greatest division of material and mental labour is the separation of town 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


and country" (68—69). This division may be superimposed on the division 
between the material and the mental, since we may say that the more 
mentally oriented activities are concentrated in the town. So the two 
divisions reinforce one another. This convergence is itself one more reason 
to read history at the level of an encounter and conflict between city and 

We can follow this third line of argument further by noting that the great 
actors of this history are collective entities. Perhaps the principal structural 
agent — along with the proletariat as a class — is what Marx calls manufac- 
ture or industry. (We recall Marx's great admiration for the analysis of the 
English economists, who made the birth of the factory the birth of modern 
times.) Marx makes such statements as: "With guild-free manufacture, 
property relations also quickly changed" (73). "The expansion of trade and 
manufacture accelerated the accumulation of movable capital ..." (74). 
Present is a dramaturgy of economic structures; one structure crumbles 
and is replaced by another, such as by the anonymous phenomenon the 
accumulation of movable capital (later a key concept in Capital) . In quoting 
these sentences, my question is not at all whether Marx's description is 
accurate; I am neither interested in that problem nor competent to make 
that judgment. Instead, my concern is the epistemological structure of the 
work; I want to uncover the historical agents in the text. When Marx writes 
about collective entities being the actors of history, he always has in mind 
that the entities that have a history are not ideas but trade, commerce, 
property, labor, and so on. Th' s, if I speak of these collective entities as 
historical agents, it is to do jus ice to all those texts where these entities 
act, they do something. There s a kind of dramatization associated with 
the activity of manufacture or industry. 

Big industry universalised competition in spite of these protective measures. . . . 
It destroyed as far as possible ideology, religion, morality, etc. and where it could 
not do this, made them into a palpable lie. It produced world history for the first 
time, insofar as it made all civilised nations and every individual member of them 
dependent for the satisfaction of their wants on the whole world, thus destroying 
the former natural exclusiveness of separate nations. It made natural science sub- 
servient to capital. ... It destroyed natural growth in general. ... It completed 
the victory of the commercial town over the countryside. . . . Generally speaking, 
big industry created everywhere the same relations between the classes of society. 
. . . Big industry makes for the worker not only the relation to the capitalist, but 
labour itself, unbearable. (77-78) 

Big industry, a faceless structure, is the historical actor, the logical subject. 

9 2 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

Even the division of labor, which we presented before as a fragmentation 
of human being, appears now as an aspect of the industrial class structure 

The division of labour, which we already saw above ... as one of the chief foree s 
of history up till now, manifests itself also in the ruling class as the division () f 
^nental and material labour, so that inside this class one part appears as the thinkers 
of the class (its active, conceptive ideologists, who make the perfecting of the 
illusion of the class about itself their chief source of livelihood), while the others' 
attitude to these ideas and illusions is more passive and receptive, because thev are 
in reality the active members of this class and have less time to make up illusions 
and ideas about themselves. (65) 

Perhaps the strongest argument for the structural reading of the text is 
a fourth cjaim: the necessity of political struggle places the stress on 
conflicts not between individuals but between classes. Here the concept of 
the proletariat appears precisely as a collective entity. To the extent that 
the proletariat becomes the second major historical agent, along with in- 
dustry, we may write history as the conflict between big industry and the 
proletariat without mentioning individuals but only structures and forms. 

And if these material elements of a complete revolution are not present (namely, 
on the one hand the existing productive forces, on the other the formation of a 
revolutionary mass, which revolts not only against separate conditions of society 
up till then, but against the very "production of life" till then, the "total activity" 
on which it was based), then, as far as practical development is concerned, it is 
absolutely immaterial whether the idea of this revolution has been expressed a 
hundred times already, as the history of communism proves. (59) 

A revolution is a historical force and not a conscious production. Any 
consciousness of the need for change is supported by a class, "a class which 
forms the majority of all members of society, and from which emanates 
the consciousness of the necessity of a fundamental revolution ..." (94). 
Orthodox Marxism will develop this conflict between structures in terms 
of what Freud calls, in relation to the struggle between life and death 
described in Civilization and Its Discontents, a gigantomachy, a conflict 
of giants. We may read and write history as the clash between capital and 
labor, a polemical relation between entities, a conflict of historical ghosts. 

We may close this structural reading by a fifth and final characteristic, 
the methodological decision not to read history according to its own con- 
sciousness but according to the real basis. The claim that the historian is 
not to share the illusions of the epoch studied is advanced at several points. 
The following text is an example of Marx's critique : 

The exponents of this [classical] conception of history have consequently only been 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


l e t0 gee in history the political actions of princes and States, religious and all 
3 rts of theoretical struggles, and in particular in each historical epoch have had to 
hare the illusion of that epoch. For instance, if an epoch imagines itself to be 
actuated by purely "political" or "religious" motives, although "religion" and "po- 
litics" a re ° n 'y f orms °f i ts true motives, the historian accepts this opinion. (59- 

In writing about the political actions of princes and states and various 
religious and theoretical struggles, the classical approach attends only the 
surface of history. It neglects that^behind the king of Norway, to cite the 
familiar example, there is the herring and the history of herring trade. 
Historians fail when they assume the illusions of the epoch examined. It 
is on the basis of this kind of critique that I have elsewhere linked Marxism 
to what I call the school of suspicion. 1 Not to share the illusion of an epoch 
is precisely to look behind or, as the Germans say now, hinterfragen, to 
question behind. 

This concludes my presentation of the structural reading of The German 
Ideology, with the exception of one final quotation. I have kept for the end 
perhaps the most pointed statement supporting the structural interpreta- 
tion of this text: "Thus all collisions in history have their origin, according 
to our view, in the contradiction between the productive forces and the 
form of intercourse" (89). This statement defines what will become the 
classical orthodox Marxist position. The productive forces change on the 
basis of technological development, but the forms of intercourse resist. 
Indeed, resistance obtains not only in the productive relations — the jur- 
idical form of property is a good example — but also in the system of ideas 
grafted onto these structures. A revolutionary situation is created when 
this conflict, this contradiction, between productive forces and forms of 
intercourse constitutes a tension close to the point of rupture. For our 
purposes the most salient point here is the complete bracketing of the 
individuals bearing the contradiction. 

Having amassed some of the passages upholding the objectivist reading 
of The German Ideology, I now would like to turn to those sections where 
real individuals in their conditions are emphasized and underlined as the 
ultimate basis. We shall see that Marx provides the tools for an inner 
criticism of any approach treating as ultimate explanatory factors such 
categories as the ruling class. Let us return first to the apparently clear 
statement that a ruling class is always behind a ruling idea. We recall the 
sentence that introduces Marx's discussion: "The ideas of the ruling class 
are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force" (64). For 
Marx, though, this link between ruling class and ruling idea is not me- 
chanical; it is not a mirror image like an echo or a reflection. This relation- 
ship requires an intellectual process of its own. 

For each new class which puts itself in the place of one ruling before it, is compelled, 
merely in order to carry through its aim, to represent its interest as the common 
interest of all the members of society, that is, expressed in ideal form : it has to give 
its ideas the form of universality, and represent them as the only rational, universally 
valid ones. (65-66) 

A change occurs in the ideas themselves. (I leave what it might mean for 
an interest to be "expressed" in ideal form until the discussion of Geertz 
and others who maintain that in any interest there is already a symbolic 
structure.) A process of idealization takes place, since an idea linked to a 
particular interest must appear as a universal idea. This means that a 
process of legitimation also occurs which claims acceptance by the rest of 
the society. Therefore, a real work of thought is implied in the transposition 
of particular interests into universal interests. 

Not only does this transposition require a real effort of thought, but it 
may proceed in a number of different ways. If, for instance, we say that 
rationalism in the eighteenth century represented the interests of the rising 
class, the bourgeoisie, we cannot deduce from this statement the differences 
between Descartes, Spinoza, and Kant. Thus, the manner in which an 
interest is represented in an ideal sense is in fact the summary of a huge 
and complex process of thought. Lucien Goldmann, a student of Lukacs, 
struggled his entire life with this problem. He tried to refine the Marxist 
model by distinguishing within the French society of the seventeenth 
century, for example, the competing interests of such groups as the military 
and the judiciary. Goldmann claimed the enterprise of the latter had 
specific contradictions which could be represented by the hidden god of 
Pascal. As we can see, this is very difficult work to undertake, but it is one 
of the great challenges of a Marxist history of ideas to make more plausible 
the connections between a system of interests and a system of thought. 

I myself would argue that there are many intermediary links or stages 
between a crude assertion of an interest and the refined form of a philo- 
sophical or theological system. We may take as another example the Ref- 
ormation conflict between Calvinists and Jesuits on predestination and free 
will. To a certain extent we may say that this conflict is a way of dealing 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


with forces not mastered in economic life, but there are so many steps 
between the economic contradictions and their theological expression that 
their direct linkage becomes either a truism or a fallacy, especially if the 
model used is borrowed from a mechanical kind of physics. We would have 
to speak, like later Marxism, of the efficiency of the basis, but I shall leave 
that discussion for our reading of Althusser. It makes more sense, I think, 
if we interpret the relationship between an interest and its expression in 
ideas by means of a system of legitimation. (Again, I use the term as 
advanced by Max Weber.) If we utilize this framework, then we must 
introduce the notion of motive and also the role of the individual agents 
who have these motives, because a system of legitimation is an attempt to 
justify a system of authority. The process is a complex interplay of claims 
and beliefs, claims on the part of the authority and beliefs on the part of 
the society's members. The motivational process is so complex that it is 
extremely difficult to incorporate it within the crude relationship between 
infrastructure and superstructure. The orthodox model may have to be 
refined to such an extent that finally it breaks. 

Let us turn now to the role of class. As before I do not discuss Marx as 
a historian of society ; my question is not whether he is correct to say that 
this class has replaced that one. Instead, my question is what does Marx 
mean by class; in particular, to what extent is class an ultimate category? 
There are many passages in which Marx suggests that class actually has a 
history of its own and that its autonomy in relation to the individual is 
itself a process similar to the one that isolates ideas from their basis. We 
may say, therefore, that a theory of history which utilizes the concept of 
class as an ultimate cause is in fact the victim of the illusion of autonomy, 
exactly as the ideologist falls victim to the illusion of the independence of 
ideas. Marx writes, "The separate individuals form a class only insofar as 
they have to carry on a common battle against another class. ..." A 
genealogy is offered for what in another kind of discourse becomes an 
ultimate factor. Two discourses are intertwined, one for which class is the 
historical agent and another for which an anthropolpgical reduction or 
genealogy of the sociological entity occurs. Marx continues: 

On the other hand, the class in its turn achieves an independent existence over 
against the individuals, so that the latter find their conditions of existence predes- 
tined, and hence have their position in life and their personal development assigned 
to them by their class, become subsumed under it. This is the same phenomenon 
as the subjection of the separate individuals to the division of labour and can only 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

be removed by the abolition of private property and of labour itself. We have 
already indicated several times how this subsuming of individuals under the class 
brings with it their subjection to all kinds of ideas, etc. (82) 

•The same process that severs ideas from real life has severed the class from 
the individual. Therefore, class itself has a history. 

In several other passages Marx speaks of the class as a circumstance or 
condition. What we must recognize is that there are conditions or circum- 
stances only for individuals. Conditions and circumstances always refer to 
the individuals found in these situations. Thus, we must apply the same 
reduction from class to individual as from ideology to class; an anthropol- 
ogical redaction supports the economic reduction. An anthropological 
reduction is implied in Marx's continual claim that real individuals are the 
ones who enter into relations. 

If from a philosophical point of view one considers this evolution of individuals in 
the common conditions of existence of estates and classes, which followed on one 
another, and in the accompanying general conceptions forced upon them, it is 
certainly very easy to imagine that in these individuals the species, or "Man," has 
evolved, or that they evolved "Man" — and in this way one can give history some 
hard clouts on the ear. One can conceive these various estates and classes to be 
specific terms of the general expression, subordinate varieties of the species, or 
evolutionary phases of "Man." (83) 

Marx makes an anthropological interpretation of class structure. In fact, 
Marx's argument is even more forceful than that. To claim that the aim of 
the communist revolution is the abolition of class presupposes that class is 
not an inviolable structure, not a given, but rather a product of history. 
Just as it has been created, so it can also be destroyed. The notion of the 
abolition of class makes sense only if class is not an irreducible, historical 
factor but the result of a transformation of personal powers into objective 
powers. "The transformation through the division of labour, of personal 
powers (relationships) into material powers, cannot be dispelled by dis- 
missing the general idea of it from one's mind, but can only be abolished 
by the individuals again subjecting these material powers to themselves 
and abolishing the division of labour" (83). The true victims of the division 
of labor, of the class structure, are individuals. Individuals can undertake 
the project of abolishing the class structure and the division of labor because 
it is their own personal powers which have been transformed into material 
powers. Class and the division of labor are manifestations of those material 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


wer s which are the transformation of our personal power. The notion 
0 f personal power is placed at the forefront. 

jylarx amplifies this argument, saying : "Individuals have always built on 
themselves, but naturally on themselves within their given historical con- 
ditions and relationships, not on the 'pure' individual in the sense of the 
ideologists" (83). This text convinced me that the break between the young 
Marx and the classical Marx lies not in the abolition of the individual but, 
on the contrary, in the emergence of the individual from the idealistic 
concept of consciousness. My main argument against the interpretation of 
Althusser is that the break between humanism and Marxism is intelligible 
only if we interpret humanism in terms of a claim of consciousness and not 
as a claim of the real individual. The break is between consciousness and 
real individual, not between human being and structures. 

If we situate the break in this way, we appreciate better that the division 
of labor is troublesome because it is a division within the individual. 

[I]n the course of historical evolution, and precisely through the inevitable fact 
that within the division of labour social relationsips take on an independent exis- 
tence, there appears a division within the life of each individual, insofar as it is 
personal and insofar as it is determined by some branch of labour and the conditions 
pertaining to it. (83-84) 

The division of labor is problematic only because it divides each of us into 
two parts, one part being our inner life and the other what we give to the 
society, to the class, and so on. "The division between the personal and 
the class individual, the accidental nature of the conditions of life for the 
individual, appears only with the emergence of the class, which is itself a 
product of the bourgeoisie" (84). This sentence may be read to agree with 
both of the interpretative approaches to the text. The division within the 
individual is engendered by the class, but the class is itself engendered by 
the cleft within the individual, a cleft between the personal and the class 
parts of individual existence. The line of division, therefore, passes through 
each individual. 

People's assertion of themselves as individuals is fundamental for un- 
derstanding the process of liberation, of abolition. Liberation is the claim 
of the individual against the collective entities. The fundamental motiva- 
tion of revolution, at least in The German Ideology, is the assertion of the 
individual. It is an individualist claim that may be read not into but in the 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

Thus, while the refugee serfs only wished to be free to develop and assert thus 
conditions of existence which were already there, and hence, in the end, on | v 
arrived at free labour, the proletarians, if they are to assert themselves as individuals 
will have to abolish the very condition of their existence hitherto . . . namely 
labour [wage labor]. Thus they find themselves directly opposed to the form i n 
which, hitherto, the individuals, of which society consists, have given themselves 
collective expression, that is, the State. In order, therefore, to assert themselves as 
individuals, they must overthrow the State. (85) 

If the ultimate structure is the class, the ultimate motivating force is the 
individual. A competition exists in the text between an explanation based 
on structures and an explanation based on the ultimate motives of the 
individuals behind these structures. 

In question is not only the motivation of the proletarians but also the 
form of their association. Marx envisages a party that would not be a 
machine, a bureaucracy, but a free union. The notion of united individuals 
is a constant in the text. Marx says that even if in the labor process workers 
are only cogs and act as class individuals, when they meet their comrades 
in the union, it is as real individuals. They extract themselves from the 
class relationship when they enter into this other relation. We may say that 
workers suffer as members of a class but react as individuals. 

It follows from all that we have been saying up till now that the communal 
relationship into which the individuals of a class entered, and which was determined 
by their common interests over against a third party, was always a community ti 
which these individuals belonged only as average individuals, only insofar as they 
lived within the conditions of existence of their class — a relationship in which they 
participated not as individuals but as members of a class. With the community of 
revolutionary proletarians, on the other hand, who take their conditions of existence 
and those of all members of society under their control, it's just the reverse ; it is 
as individuals that the individuals participate in it. (85) 

The apparent autonomy of the class appears because this mode of relation- 
ship is abstract: a worker labors and is paid on the basis of an anonymous, 
structural relationship. The free association is Marx's answer to the chal- 
lenge of compulsory association in the class. One of the achievements of 
communism will be its inclusion of this movement of free association. 

Communism differs from all previous movements in that it overturns the basis of 
all earlier relations of production and intercourse, and for the first time consciously 
treats all natural premises as the creatures of hitherto existing men, strips them of 
their natural character and subjugates them to the power of the united individuals. 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


attention is drawn to the power of united individuals; the issue is not one 
llective entities. Reduction of the Marxist interpretation to a system 
f forces and forms prohibits any account of the movement that attempts 
° surpass it, because this movement is rooted in the self-assertion of 
, n( jividuals uniting themselves. 
The primacy of the role of individuals is persistent. 

Thus two facts are here revealed. First the productive forces appear as a world for 
tiiemselves, quite independent of and divorced from the individuals, alongside the 
individuals: the reason for this is that the individuals, whose forces they are, exist 
split up and in opposition to one another whilst, on the other hand, these forces 
are only real forces in the intercourse and association of these individuals. Thus, 
0 n the one hand, we have a totality of productive forces, which have, as it were, 
taken on a material form and are now for the individuals no longer the forces of 
the individuals but of private property, and hence of the individuals only insofar 
as they are owners of private property themselves. Never, in any earlier period, 
have the productive forces taken on a form so indifferent to the intercourse of 
individuals as individuals, because their intercourse itself was formerly a restricted 
one. (ai-9 2 ) 

When Marx says that productive forces are real forces only for individuals, 
the primacy of individuals cannot be asserted more strongly. Even in their 
most abstract condition (I refrain from saying alienated condition, as this 
term does not belong to the text), individuals do not disappear but become 
instead abstract individuals; and "only by this fact [are they] put into a 
position to enter into relation with one another as individuals" (92). By 
this fragmentation of all ties, each individual is sent back to himself or 
herself and then is able to join the others in a union of individuals. 

In the prominence granted to the role of individuals, the most important 
aspect of this role is played by self -activity, Selbstbetdtigung. Self-activity 
is a fundamental concept, for me the foundational concept at this point in 
the text. The emphasis placed on self-activity proves that there is not a 
complete break between the Manuscripts and The German Ideology. "The 
only connection which still links [individuals] with the productive forces 
and with their own existence — labour — has lost all semblance of self- 
activity and only sustains life by stunting it" (92). Self-activity has disap- 
peared because of a process of inner destruction. We see that the concept 
of self-activity preserves from the Manuscripts something of the concept 
of objectification, the self-creation of human being. What confirms the 
continuity with the Manuscripts is that the concept of appropriation is 
maintained. "Thus things have now come to such a pass that the individual 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

must appropriate the existing totality of productive forces ..." (92). The 
word "alienation" may have disappeared, but the term "appropriation" has 
survived this shift. Marx has abandoned the word "alienation" because it 
belonged too much to the language of consciousness and self-consciousness 
to what now appears an idealistic vocabulary. When replaced, however, by 
the basic structure of the self-assertion of individuals, then the concept's 
nonidealistic intent may be recovered. In fact, all the concepts of the 
Manuscripts, previously encapsulated more or less in an ideology of self- 
consciousness, are now recovered for the sake of an anthropology of self- 
assertion, of self-activity. "Only the proletarians of the present day, wh« 
are completely shut off from all self-activity, are in a position to achieve a 
complete »nd no longer restricted self-activity, which consists in the ap- 
propriation of a totality of productive forces and in the thus postulated 
development of a totality of capacities" (92—93). All Marx's arguments are 
rooted here in this movement of self-activity, loss of self-activity, and 
appropriation of self-activity. Selbstbetdtigung is the fundamental concept. 

The key concept of individuals living in definite conditions is perhaps 
now better understood, because this concept is opposed to the notion of 
the individual as mere individual, of the individual as simply contingent 
with regard to its condition. Marx characterizes the individual's abstraction 
from any social conditioning by insisting on its subordination to the division 
of labor, which plays in The German Ideology the role played by alienation 
in the Manuscripts. The division of labor plays the same role as alienation 
because it has the same structure, except that it is no longer expressed in 
the language of consciousness but in the language of life. The concept of 
self-activity has replaced that of consciousness. 

If this analysis is correct, it is a complete misunderstanding to conclude 
from the eviction of such entities as "Man," species, and consciousness the 
priority of the concepts of class, forces, and forms. It is a misunderstanding 
because these latter entities are objective precisely in the stage of the 
division of labor. Thus, to assume that these epistemological abstractions 
are the real basis is in fact to play the game of estrangement. The state is 
one example in this text of the self-assertion of an entity which is in fact a 
product (see 80). Another example is civil society (see 57); civil society is 
always presented here as a result before becoming in turn a basis. It is a 
result for a certain genealogy and a basis for a certain kind of explanation. 
Once again, a difficult problem raised by The German Ideology is the 
correct connection between the two readings, the anthropological reduction 

Marx: The German Ideology (2) 


or genealogy and the economic explanation; these readings run on two 
p ara Ilel levels without intersecting. It is for the sake of different kinds of 
explanations that we refer either to the individual or to the class. There 
are methodological rules for applying this or that language game, the 
j an g Ua ge game of the real individual or the language game of the class, 
forces, and forms. To eliminate the anthropology for the sake of the 
economic language, though, is in fact to assume the present state as 

A claim could be raised that I have not quoted the most important 
passage for our purposes, the one point in the text, as far as I know, where 
the word "superstructure" is employed. It appears in Marx's discussion of 
civil society: "Civil society as such only develops with the bourgeoisie; the 
social organisation evolving directly out of production and commerce, 
which in all ages forms the basis of the State and of the rest of the idealistic 
superstructure . . ." (57). I cannot say that this is the first time Marx used 
the word, I am not enough of an expert in the Marxist texts to assume 
that, but at least in The German Ideology it is the first time that the word 
occurs and, to my mind, the only time that it appears in part 1 of this text. 
The idealistic superstructure belongs to what I have called the language 
game of productive forces in contrast to that of the real, living individuals 
in certain conditions. My hypothesis in fact is that the great discovery of 
Marx here is the complex notion of the individual under definite conditions, 
because the possibility of the second reading is implied in the first one. We 
may bracket the individual and start from the conditions and contend that 
the conditions are the causes. In so doing, however, we do not destroy the 
dialectic between individual and condition, because the individual always 
exits in a certain condition or under a certain condition. 

I recently had the opportunity to read an important work on Marx written 
by the French philosopher Michel Henry. 2 Henry has also written a big 
work on the concept of manifestation (L'Essence de la Manifestation), and 
in his present book he has tried to reorganize Marx's texts around the same 
notion emphasized there, that of concrete bodily action or effort. He claims 
that only one other philosopher, Maine de Biran, has anticipated this 
perspective. For Henry a certain conditionality is implied in the process 
of effort; an effort is always connected to a resistance. (This connection 
between effort and resistance is the anthropological kernel of Maine de 
Biran 's work.) On the basis of this relationship, Henry says, we may pass 
without contradiction to the objective language of the history of the con- 


Marx: The German Ideology (2) 

ditions, which now act autonomously as real historical forces and agents. 
Thus, if we can correctly connect these two levels, then we no longer have 
two readings but rather a dialectical reading of the concepts of historical 
forces and real individuals. I am not sure, however, that the connections 
Henry strives for are so easily attained. In any case, just like Spinoza's and 
others, Marx's texts are open texts. We need not take a stand for or against 
communism or any kind of party. Marx's texts are good philosophical texts, 
and they must be read in the same manner as all others. There is room, 
therefore, for many interpretations of Marx, and Henry's is one of the 
plausible ones. 

In the lectures that follow, I turn from Marx to Louis Althusser. I shall 
present firs^ Althusser's reading of the Manuscripts and The German Ide- 
ology and then discuss his own interpretation of the theory of superstructu re 
and his attempt to get rid of the notion of reversal by replacing it with that 
of epistemological break. Althusser proposes a transformation of Marxism 
on the basis of an epistemological critique. The concept of reversal, he 
says, remains inescapably within the framework of idealism. As we shall 
see, the price Althusser has to pay for this interpretation is high: any kind 
of humanism must be put on the side of ideology. 

If the dividing line, at least in the young Marx, is between praxis and 
ideology, the dividing line later is between science and ideology. Ideology 
becomes the contrary of science and not the counterpart of real life. The 
importance of this stance may be related to the constitution of the Marxist 
corpus as itself a scientific body, or as at least claiming to be such. It offers 
a contrary to ideology. For the young Marx, this contrary did not exist and 
so ideology was opposed to real life. When Marxism itself becomes a corpus, 
however, then it provides the contrary to ideology. This change will mark 
the main shift in the history of ideology as a concept. 


Althusser (i) 

The next three lectures may be placed under the title, "Ideology and 
Science." I shall give an account of the change in the Marxist theory of 
ideology where ideology is no longer or not only related to reality but to 
science. I shall say something about the main changes which promoted this 
move in order to introduce the discussion of Louis Althusser's For Marx. 
I will not follow the historical order of this development, which would 
have led to theorists like Lukacs, but more a logical order, logical at least 
with reference to what I want to say about the problem. Thus, this order 
has nothing necessary and still less anything compulsory about it. 

I want to emphasize three main changes within the Marxist theory; these 
will provide us with a leading thread for the next three lectures. First, as 
I just mentioned, ideology is placed against the background of a different 
concept, not so much the real practical life-process — the language of The 
German Ideology — but science. For later Marxism the body of Marx's 
writing itself becomes the paradigm of science. Note that in analyzing the 
Marxist use of the word "science," we must set aside the positivist sense 
of the term, particularly dominant in this country, where the word has a 
much narrower scope than the German Wissenschaft. The German Wis- 
senschaft preserves something of the Greek episteme. We should recall, for 
example, that Hegel called his encyclopedia Encyclopaedia of the Philo- 
sophical Sciences. In Marxist theory, then, the word "science" is typically 
not used in the empirical sense of a body of knowledge that can be verified 
or falsified, as in the Popperian sense of the term. Instead, science is more 
a fundamental theory. (The word "theory" is in fact preferred by Althusser 
for that reason.) Science is fundamental knowledge. Therefore, the shift 
in the concept of ideology must be measured according to the criteria of 


scientificity as embodied in Marxist "science." Earlier orthodox Marxism 
expressed this trend by distinguishing proletarian science from bourgeois 
science, but Althusser despises and rejects this claim. This opposition was 
extremely harmful to intellectual life within the Communist Party and 
•within countries controlled by the Party; it led to both a certain lag in so- 
called bourgeois science and a petrification of the so-called proletarian 
science. Althusser attempts precisely to raise the level of the discussion. 
Whatever the differences within the Marxist school, though, the first gen- 
eral change in Marxist theory is development of the opposition between 
ideology and science. 

The second important change is linked to the first and concerns the 
identification of the real basis of history. We noticed this concept of the 
real basis in The German Ideology and saw there a certain hesitation 
between — or at least sufficient room for — two different interpretations of 
this concept. One interpretation maintains that the real basis is ultimately 
the real individuals in determinate or definite conditions, while the other 
argues that the real basis is the interplay of productive forces and productive 
relations. Orthodox Marxism chooses the latter interpretation, and this too 
affects the theory of ideology. If we want to continue to oppose ideology 
to reality, we must recognize that reality is defined here by whatever 
Marxist science identifies as the real basis. Therefore, Marxist interpreta- 
tion of the real basis as economic structures is coherent with the emergence 
of science as the corollary pole, because the object of this so-called Marxist 
science is precisely correct knowledge of the real basis. 

This conjunction between the concept of science and the real basis — 
that is, economic structures — constitutes the kernel of historical materi- 
alism. The word "materialism" does not necessarily imply a cosmology, as 
in the sense it took on in Engels, a philosophy of nature that is a kind of 
scholasticism of nature. Engels' position is better described as dialectical 
materialism. The term "historical materialism," in contrast, is oriented by 
the connection between science and its object, the real basis.. Because 
ideology is said to be the opposite pole to science and the real basis, it is 
also placed in opposition to historical materialism. The result is the com- 
mon opposition in orthodox Marxism between idealism and materialism, 
as if we can choose only between two colors in order to paint reality. The 
opposition is implied in the very nature of the contrast allowed: if you are 
not a historical materialist, you are then an idealist. To be described as an 
idealist means only that you are not a materialist in the sense endorsed. I 


recently encountered a contemporary example of this perspective in a book 
on the philosophy of history written by I. S. Kon, a very good Russian 
philosopher. In his work Philosophical Idealism and the Crisis in Bourgeois 
fjistorical Thinking, Kon says that the philosophy of history has two sides 
only i one of which is the bourgeois philosophy of history, and he includes 
among this latter group Jean-Paul Sartre. Thus, attribution is a question 
of elimination; if we are not on one side, we are necessarily on the other. 

The third change in Marxist theory, particularly fundamental to our 
discussion, is that the relation between the real basis and ideology becomes 
expressed in the language of a fundamental metaphor of an edifice with a 
base and floors. This topographic metaphor is already implied in the image 
of a real basis. It is very difficult not to think in terms of this metaphor, to 
describe cultural phenomena other than in layers. In fact, Marxists are not 
the only ones to utilize this imagery. It also appears, for example, in Freud ; 
his conceptual structure of the id, ego, and superego is itself topographical. 
The problem with the topographic model is always to what extent we are 
deceived by the metaphor when it is taken literally. Classical Marxism 
develops this metaphor by introducing between the real basis and the 
superstructure a complex system of relations defined in terms of determi- 
nation or effectivity, efficacite. 

To put it in another way, we may say that the relation between infra- 
structure and superstructure in Marxism is ruled by a complex interaction 
that has two sides. On the one hand, Marxism argues, there is a causal 
relation: the superstructure is determined by the infrastructure. On the 
other hand, though, a second relation exists which more or less qualifies 
the first one: the superstructure has a relative autonomy, Marxism says, 
and even has the possibility of reacting back onto its basis. Here we may 
recognize the classic concept of Wechselwirkung, mutual action. This con- 
cept has a long history; it stems from Newton's attempt to explain the 
mutual relationship between forces and appears also in such figures as Kant 
and Hegel. In Kant's table of categories, Wechselwirkung is the third 
category of relation after substance and causality. In Hegel's Logic, quantity 
is followed by action, reaction, mutual action, and so on. In Marxism, 
mutual action is encompassed within the notion of a unidirectional rela- 
tionship; it is a way of qualifying this relationship. For Marxism the 
cornerstone of the theory of ideology is constituted by the subordination 
of mutual action to action that proceeds in one direction only. 

Many of the scholastic discussions among Marxists are about this paradox 



or tension between the fundamental claim, coming from The German 
Ideology, that ideology has no history of its own, that the entire thrust 0 f 
history comes from the basis, and the claim that nevertheless the super- 
structure has an effect on the basis, the infrastructure. Engels tried to 
pfovide a kind of peaceful agreement between different interpretations bv 
introducing the famous concept of determination in the last instance. The 
elderly Engels addressed the notion against those "economists" within the 
Marxist school who said that since there is no history of ideology, ideolog- 
ical formations are only shadows, nothing more than ghosts floating in the 
air. For this position, as I said in the previous lecture, the history of 
Norway is the history of the herring and nothing more. Engels supplied a 
moderate w?y to preserve both the radical determination in the last instance 
by the infrastructure and the remaining influence of the superstructure on 
the economic foundation. Engels' comment appeared in his famous letter 
to Joseph Bloch and is quoted by Althusser in For Marx: 

Listen to the old Engels in 1890, taking the young "economists" to task for not 
having understood that this was a new relationship. Production is the determinant 
factor, but only "in the last instance": "More than this neither Marx nor I have 
ever asserted." Anyone who "twists this" so that it says that the economic factor is 
the only determinant factor "transforms that proposition into a meaningless, ab- 
stract, empty phrase." And as explanation: "The economic situation is the basis, 
but the various elements of the superstructure — the political forms of the class 
struggle and its results: to wit constitutions established by the victorious class after 
a successful battle, etc., juridical forms, and then even the reflexes of all these 
actual struggles in the brains of the participants, political, juristic, philosophical 
theories, religious views and their further development into systems of dogmas — 
also exercise their influence upon the course of the historical struggles, and in many 
cases preponderate in determining their form. . . ."(m-12) 

That elements of the superstructure may help to determine the form of 
historical struggles means that there is a certain plasticity in the possibility 
of giving shape to the infrastructure. It is within these limits that the theory 
of ideology has a certain autonomy, but it is a relative autonomy in relation 
to the final determination by the infrastructure. 

My own fundamental contention — I want to say something about where 
I am headed — is both that this conceptual framework of "effectivity" is 
inadequate for dealing with such questions as a system of power's claim of 
legitimacy and that these phenomena are better understood in the frame- 
work of motivation than causation. It is in making this claim that I shall 
want to introduce Max Weber, not as an alternative interpretation but as 


a better interpretation of the relation between base and superstructure. It 
is completely meaningless to say that something economic acts on ideas in 
a causal way. The economic force of something material cannot have effects 
of another kind unless these effects occur within another conceptual frame- 
work, that of motivation. To establish this framework I shall try to use the 
notions of claim to legitimacy and of belief in legitimacy, an extremely 
complex interchange between ruling and ruled expressed in terms of the 
conflict of motives. The question of motivation makes more sense, I think, 
if we discuss it in terms of our relation to power, to structures of power, 
and so on. It is for this reason thai I shall later pay so much attention to 
this different kind of vocabulary. My argument is that while Althusser 
introduces improvements, he never changes the radical structure of effec- 
tivity, of determination in the last instance, and I wonder whether that 
structure finally makes sense. 

Thus, my interest in Weber is not only because he saw that there is no 
ruling power (class, state, or anything else) without a claim to legitimacy 
and a belief in legitimacy, but because he saw that this relation between 
claim and belief requires the framework of a comprehensive sociology 
dealing with agents, goals, motives, and so forth. It is the language game 
of infrastructure and superstructure that may be both deficient and at the 
same time also responsible for the unfortunate dispute about what is de- 
termination in the last instance or about what is the relative efficacy of the 
ideological sphere. What may be particularly questionable is the use of 
effectivity in this context, since it reconfirms the metaphor of an edifice 
with a base and superstructure. The topographic image leads to endless 
qualifications of a fundamentally mechanistic model. A certain convergence 
with the young Marx could have been preserved by arguing that the real 
basis remains the real individual under definite conditions. But this real 
basis is compatible only with the conceptual framework of motivation. 

In general, therefore, if we keep in mind first that ideology is set against 
the theoretical claim of Marxism as science, second that ideology is the 
superstructure of a real basis expressed in terms of economic structures, 
and third that there is a relation of effectivity between the infrastructure 
and the superstructure, we have then a framework for the discussion of the 
changes in the Marxist theory of ideology. If I choose Althusser for the 
focus of this discussion, it is because he has drawn the most radical con- 
sequences of these three changes. We shall read his work as especially the 
endeavor to draw all the consequences of the first move, whereby he makes 



science the opposite pole of ideology by reinforcing the theoretical structure 
of Marxism, claiming that it is not a praxis, a historical movement, but a 
theory. By means of the second change, Althusser attempts the coherent 
elimination of all references to real individuals from the real basis of history , 
since the point of view of the individual does not belong to the structure. 
The individual is not a structural concept and therefore must be rejected 
on the side of ideology with all humanisms. Humanism is by definition 
ideological. Third, Althusser undertakes a more sophisticated interpreta- 
tion of the relation between infrastructure and superstructure. This is his 
fundamental contribution, to try to improve the topographic and causa! ist 
framework of thought, in both a non-Hegelian and a nonmechanistic sense. 
Here I think- Althusser stands or falls. 

We may say in summary that there is a coherent affinity between the 
three theses of orthodox Marxism and the three I am trying to articulate. 
The opposition between ideology and science may be contrasted with the 
opposition between ideology and praxis. The emphasis on productive 
forces and relationships as the real basis of history may be contrasted with 
the emphasis on real individuals under definite conditions. And finally, the 
relation of effectivity between infrastructure and superstructure may be 
contrasted with the relation of motivation between the claim to and the 
belief in legitimacy. 

As we turn to our discussion of Althusser, I should delineate more fully 
the particular changes he brings to the Marxist theory of ideology. Our 
discussion will proceed by following these changes in sequential order. We 
shall begin by considering Althusser's plea for theory, which defines his 
position in the Marxist tradition. This theoretical stand describes the 
opposition between science and ideology already asserted within Marxism 
in terms of an epistemological break rather than an inversion. If it is true 
that ideology is the contrary of science, then there can be no relation of 
inversion between the two. Althusser must give up theconcept of inversion , 
both because it is not epistemological enough and because it causes us to 
remain in a sense within the framework of what has been inverted. If we 
invert something, put it upside down, it is still the same; the epistemolog- 
ical break, in contrast, introduces something new. In the second part of 
this presentation, we shall see how Althusser applies the notion of episte- 
mological break to Marx's writings themselves and therefore draws a di- 
viding line within them between what is and what is not properly Marxist. 
The decisive fact is that the line is not drawn between the Manuscripts of 


jg^f and The German Ideology, as I did for my part, but between The 
German Ideology and Capital. While I argued that the shift is between 
consciousness and the real individual, Althusser maintains that these terms 
are on the same side. For Althusser the epistemoldgical break in Marx 
comes between the concern for human being (both as consciousness and 
as real individual) and the real basis in history expressed in terms of 
productive forces and relations of production. The real basis lies in objec- 
tive structures and not in supposed personal powers. The elimination of 
personal powers from the real basis indicates that any reference to real 
individuals as the bearers of the process must be considered to be still 
ideological. As for the third and final part of our discussion of Althusser, 
we shall see how he refines the Marxist theory of infrastructure and super- 
structure. Our particular reference point here will be Althusser's theory of 
ideology proper, its extensions and functions. Thus, the didactic order I 
propose for the examination of Althusser implies that we start from his 
plea for theory in order to understand what is meant by the epistemological 

In the introduction to For Marx, Althusser orients his own emphasis on 
theory by supplying a good account of the situation in recent French 
Marxism up to 1965, the time of his writing. Althusser summarizes this 
history as "what, echoing Heine's 'German misery,' we might call our 
'French misery': the stubborn, profound absence of any real theoretical 
culture in the history of the French workers' movement" (23; emphasis in 
the original). In contrast to Germany, Russia, Poland, and Italy, where 
Marxist theoreticians made important Party contributions, the situation in 
the French Communist Party was one of theoretical poverty. It is in relation 
to this theoretical vacuum that Althusser puts forward his own claim. The 
French Party, says Althusser, had not attracted persons of sufficient phil- 
osophical formation to realize that 

Marxism should not be simply a political doctrine, a "method" of analysis and 
action, but also, over and above the rest, the theoretical domain of a fundamental 
investigation, indispensable not only to the development of the science of society 
and of the various "human sciences," but also to that of the natural sciences and 
philosophy. (26) 

This claim is later developed at length in Althusser's lecture on "Lenin 
and Philosophy," collected in the volume of the same name. 
Althusser points out that this claim has several corollaries. The first is 



that Marxism must resist a certain tendency of the young Marx wherein 
Marx says that philosophy is dead after Hegel and that what follows is no 
longer philosophy. Althusser comments that if it is true that political action 
is philosophy realized, it is precisely philosophy realized. If we must speak 
of the death of philosophy, it must be a philosophical death (29). This 
argument derives its importance from the fact that if the theoretical struc- 
ture of Marxism is not preserved, then all the positivist trends in Marxism 
will prevail. Principal among these trends is reliance on Marx's eleventh 
thesis on Feuerbach, that until now philosphers have interpreted the world, 
while the point is to change it. According to this perspective, the time for 
interpretation has ended and the time for action has arrived. 

A second^ corollary is that Marxist theory must resist the reduction of 
itself to mere critique. (This criticism could be expressed in relation to the 
Frankfurt School, which does not seem to be known by Althusser. I think 
that he would despise their orientation.) Althusser maintains that the task 
of Marxist philosophy is not only to criticize illusion, because in doing this 
work alone, the critique is absorbed into and becomes the mere conscious- 
ness of science. Once more this is a return to positivism. Althusser speaks 
of it as "the living death of a critical consciousness" (30). In contrast, says 
Althusser, "Marxist philosophy, founded by Marx in the very act of found- 
ing his theory of history, has still largely to be constituted ..." (30-31). 
Thus, Althusser asserts the vacuum of French Marxist misery as a weakness 
in theory that has arisen from overemphasis of the practical side. 

What is Althusser's claim about Marxist theory, then? He argues that 
this theory has two levels. First, it is a theory of history — historical ma- 
terialism — that has as its object the main structures of Capital: classes, 
modes of production, relations of production, and so on. Second, it is a 
philosophical discipline, a second-order system of concepts ruling the 
theory itself. It is the theory of the fundamental categories, the categorical 
structure, in the same way that Freud speaks of metapsychology in relation 
to the clinical concepts (drives, impulses, cathexes, and so on). At this 
second level, Marxist theory is dialectical materialism, which Althusser 
opposes to Engels* philosophy of nature, the latter being a poor Hegelian 
or, maybe worse, a poor restitution of eighteenth-century French materi- 
alism. According to Althusser, it is the distinction between historical and 
dialectical materialism that has been overlooked in all the positivistic re- 
ductions of Marxism. Even The German Ideology allows this confusion to 
persist. "The German Ideology sanctions this confusion as it reduces phi- 

Althusser (i) 


losophy ... to a faint shadow of science, if not to the empty generality of 
positivism- This practical consequence is one of the keys to the remarkable 
history of Marxist philosophy, from its origins to the present day" (33- 
24). Althusser resists not only previous schools of Marxism but something 
found in Marx himself. 

This emphasis on theory, not only as a theory of history but also as a 
theory that reflects upon the categorial structure of the doctrine, rules the 
concept of the epistemological break. In the break between science and 
ideology, what fundamentally characterizes ideology is its inability to re- 
duplicate itself in its own theory. This is a most significant point of access 
to the concept of ideology. We shall later return to describe the content of 
ideology for Althusser, what belongs to ideology, but for now we have at 
least a criterion. Even if systematic, ideology is systematic in such a way 
that it cannot give an account of itself. It finds it impossible to provide an 
account of its own way of thinking. 

This critique reminds us more of Spinoza than of Hegel. In Hegel all 
that has been said in one language may be recuperated in another; we 
develop the inner content of one mode of thought and preserve it in the 
next. The notion of a break, on the other hand, is quite anti-Hegelian; 
here Spinoza is the more appropriate reference. In contrast to the appeal 
to preservation of one stage in another, Spinoza speaks of a succession of 
modes of knowledge. The first stage, the popular vision that the sun rises, 
for example, is overcome by a second stage, astronomy, and astronomy 
has no need for and does not integrate the first view. We shall see later 
more similarities between Althusser and Spinoza based on this relation 
between the first and second modes of knowledge: the order of truth is 
anonymous, rationality is self-supporting, and the first stage has a certain 
permanence. The last point in particular is relevant to our concern for 
ideology. Outside his or her work, the astronomer goes on speaking of 
sunsets and sunrises, so perhaps ideology also has a kind of permanence. 
This, in fact, will be the last stage of Althusser's doctrine. If we have high 
requirements for what is scientific, we then relegate a considerable amount 
of life to the ideological. Althusser's principal allusion to Spinoza appears 
in a footnote: 

science can by no criteria be regarded as the truth of ideology in the Hegelian sense. 
If we want a historical predecessor to Marx in this respect we must appeal to 
Spinoza rather than Hegel. Spinoza established a relation between the first and the 
second kind of knowledge which, in its immediacy (abstracting from the totality in 



God), presupposed precisely a radical discontinuity. Although the second kind 
makes possible the understanding of the first, it is not its truth. (78 n.) 

Truth is on the side of the second kind of knowledge; there is no truth j n 
the first. The claim is strong: the second mode of knowledge is self, 
nourishing and does not borrow from that which it overcomes. This is the 
anti-Hegelian stand. As we shall see, this kind of radicalism may be finally 
unsupportable, but for my part at least I greatly admire the intellectual 
boldness of Althusser's stance. 

It is because of the "radical discontinuity" between the two modes of 
knowledge that the break between ideology and science can no longer be 
expressed in the language of reversal, of inversion. The process of inversion 
is happens to the content of the first domain; it is the same 
but upside down. Althusser may push the image of reversal too far here, 
but this is what the notion implies. Althusser discusses the concept of 
inversion in yet another footnote. The footnotes are always extremely 
interesting in Althusser's work, because he uses them to avoid difficulties 
with the Party. The truth is at the bottom of the page! 

[I]t is remarkable that Marx correctly attacked Feuerbach in The German Ideology 
for having remained a prisoner of Hegelian philosophy precisely when he was 
claiming to have "inverted" it. He attacked him for accepting the presuppositions 
of Hegel's questions, for giving different answers, but to the same questions. In 
philosophy only the questions are indiscreet, as opposed to everyday life, where it 
is the answers. Once the questions have been changed it is no longer possible to 
talk of an inversion. No doubt a comparison of the new relative rank of questions 
and answers to the old one still allows us to talk of an inversion. But it has then 
become an analogy since the questions are no longer the same and the domains 
they constitute are not comparable, except, as I have suggested, for pedagogic 
purposes. (72-73 n.) 

It is difficult to think through this idea of the break, that when the questions 
are no longer the same, the domains they constitute are no longer compar- 
able. To set Hegel back onto his feet is merely to restore what had been 
upside down. "A man on his head is the same man when he is finally 
walking on his feet" (73). I am not sure whether Althusser is himself 
deceived by the metaphor, but what we must assume here is the idea of 
the change in problematic. We are now raising new questions. We no 
longer raise questions about what is human consciousness or about what 
is the human condition; instead we ask, for example, what is a class. For 
Althusser there is no connection between these two modes of questioning. 



More than that, the Hegelian Aufhebung is inadequate. We shall discuss 
this at greater length in a later lecture, when I shall insist on the radical 
cleft according to Althusser between the relationship of superstructure and 
infrastructure and any kind of dialectics. Althusser says: 

[Marx's] "supersession" of Hegel was not at all an Aufhebung in the Hegelian sense, 
that is. an exposition of the truth of what is contained in Hegel; it was not a 
supersession of error towards its truth, on the contrary, it was a supersession of 
illusion toward its truth, or better, rather than a "supersession" of illusion towards 
truth it was a dissipation of illusion and a retreat from the dissipated illusion back 
towards reality: the term "supersession" is thus robbed of all meaning. (77-78) 

What is important in the notion of Aufhebung is that in moving from one 
level to another, we preserve that content of the first through a process of 
mediation. If we take the master-slave relationship as an example of the 
Hegelian Aufhebung, we know that this relationship is overcome in Stoi- 
cism. A moment of recognition occurs between master and slave, and 
therefore something of the earlier relationship is also preserved. For Al- 
thusser, however, we must think something quite different than the pres- 
ervation of a term through its negation. We must think of the dissipation 
of an illusion, and this must be expressed in quite another language. An 
Aufhebung implies a substantial continuity; the first term returns as the 
third through its "negation." Althusser says, on the other hand, that we 
must think of an emigration of concepts into another terrain of thought. 
Science is not the truth of what preceded it; it is not the same more true 
but rather something else. Our problem will be whether such a radical 
break is thinkable. I leave this question in suspense for the moment, 
because the possibility of thinking the break must in fact be joined to 
Althusser's claim that a causal relation, and therefore some unavoidable 
exchanges, exist between infrastructure and superstructure. We shall dis- 
cuss later the unthinkable consequences that result from these unavoidable 
exchanges between the two spheres. 

What I would like to move to now is the second major point of our 
discussion of Althusser, what we might call his hermeneutic principle for 
reading Marx. This principle is derived from the epistemological break 
said to occur in Marx. The break is epistemological because it secludes the 
ideological from the scientific; it separates not the imaginary from the real 
but the prescientific from the scientific. Since Marxism is said to have the 
theoretical capabilities to reflect on itself, it is a doctrine that also under- 
stands its beginnings and operates on itself its own theoretical or episte- 

II 4 


mological break. It is through this analysis that Althusser tries to resolve 
the classical — if perhaps sometimes boring — discussion among Marxists 
about the problem of periodization, the problem of the succession of works 
in Marx. Althusser takes this problem and applies it to the notion of the 
apistemological break. Thus, this concept which was first used to separate 
Marxism as a whole from its predecessors is now applied within the Marxist 
corpus itself. Within the history of Marxism there is said to be an episte- 
mological break between what is and what is not truly Marxist in the 
scientific sense. In the succession of essays forming For Marx, Althusser 
starts from the young Marx and leads up to the mature doctrine. I shall 
prefer to invert the succession, since the principle according to which we 
apply the option of the epistemological break to Marx arises out of the 
relation between the mature doctrine and the rest of his writings. 

I should say a word about the term "epistemological break." The concept 
comes from Gaston Bachelard, who is better known in this country for his 
work on aesthetics and poetics but who has also an important epistemolog- 
ical work, The Philosophy of No. Bachelard insists that science develops by 
a succession of negations. There is a leap, perhaps like Kuhn's change of 
paradigms. A comparison between Kuhn and Bachelard might have been 
helpful, in fact, for us to grasp better this notion of the epistemological 
break. We shall restrict ourselves to Althusser, though, and the problem 
of periodization. 

Althusser proposes that Marx's writings may be divided into four stages: 
the early works (1840-44), the works of the break (1845), the transitional 
works (1845—57), and the mature works (1857-83) (35). What is particu- 
larly interesting for our purposes is that The German Ideology is located in 
the second period precisely because of its ambiguity. What I took to be 
constitutive of the text becomes here a symptom of the break at work. The 
break is at work because the old language of the individual and the new 
language of class struggle both appear. Althusser says that the break re- 
mains a negative stage since it is expressed in the old language. I quote 
Althusser on The German Ideology, since I regard this book as the para- 
digmatic case of the theory of ideology. 

[I]t must be remembered that this mutation [separating the scientific from the 
ideological] could not produce immediately, in positive and consummated form, 
the new theoretical problematic which it inaugurated, in the theory of history as 
well as in that of philosophy. In fact, The German Ideology is a commentary, 
usually a negative and critical one, on the different forms of the ideological prob- 
lematic Marx had rejected. (34) 



Althusser deemphasizes all the positive concepts of the real individual, 
vvhich form an envelope for the new terminology. 

We need, therefore, to become well aware of the kind of reading that is 
occurring in Althusser, because a book is always read according to some 
hertneneutical rules. Althusser applies to the Marxist corpus a Marxist 
hermeneutic, that is to say, he applies the general principles of the theory 
to itself. Althusser's reading is not with a naked eye and does not claim to 
be. On the contrary, it is a critical reading; the structure of the mature 
Marx is applied backwards to its own beginning in order to introduce the 
cleft with this beginning. Althusser is right, I think, to argue for a critical 
reading. All reading is a kind of violence ; if we do not merely repeat, we 
interpret. Heidegger and many others assert that all productive reading is 
recurrent and circular. Althusser's own statement about the recurrence of 
the principle on its object appears in the following passage: 

That this definition [of the irreducible specificity of Marxist theory] cannot be read 
directly in Marx's writings, that a complete prior critique is indispensable to an 
identification of the location of the real concepts of Marx's maturity; that the 
identification of these concepts is the same thing as the identification of their 
location; that all this critical effort, the absolute precondition of any interpretation, 
in itself presupposes activating a minimum of provisional Marxist theoretical con- 
cepts bearing on the nature of theoretical formations and their history; that the 
precondition of a reading of Marx is ... a theory of epistemological history, which 
is Marxist philosophy itself; that this operation in itself constitutes an indispensable 
circle in which the application of Marxist theory to Marx himself appears to be the 
absolute precondition of an understanding of Marx and at the same time as the 
precondition even of the constitution and development of Marxist philosophy, so 
much is clear. But the circle implied by this operation is, like all circles of this 
kind, simply the dialectical circle of the question asked of an object as to its nature, 
on the basis of a theoretical problematic which in putting its object to the test puts 
itself to the test of its object. (38) 

Thus, instead of reading Marx's writing forward step by step, we read it 
backwards, that is, from what we know to be Marxist in order to establish 
what is not truly Marxist. 

Althusser describes his reading as circular; a circularity exists between 
the principle undergirding a reading and its object. In saying that the 
operation of interpretation is "like all circles of this kind," Althusser re- 
minds us of Heidegger and the hermeneutic circle, though I doubt he had 
that at all in mind. (Althusser hardly seems very much Heideggerian; 
Heidegger must be the worst of all ideologists for someone like Althusser.) 
In any event, because of Althusser's endorsement of the circularity of 


Althusser (i) 

reading, he has a ready response for those adversaries who accuse him (J f 
reading into the text: this criticism is not an objection since it is assumed 
by the way of reading. Consequently, it is difficult to use against Althusser's 
reading of the young Marx the contention that Marx does not actually say 
what Althusser is arguing. Althusser's reply is that he starts from the stage 
where the concepts are reflective of their own truth, while the young Marx 
does not yet know what in fact he is saying. In the case of The German 
Ideology, Althusser notes that his reading does not claim to take the old 
concepts "at their word" (36). The German Ideology is a text that does not 
provide the key for its own reading; it must be read with a key that does 
not belong to this work. Althusser speaks of the "still more dangerous false 
transparency of the apparently familiar concepts of the works of the break" 

What we must discuss, though, is whether it is true that the key to The 
German Ideology does not lie in the text. Is there only one way to read the 
young Marx? Are we obliged to read him according to the concepts of the 
mature Marx? Have we not a certain freedom before these texts to read 
them as entities which also speak by themselves and so not only through a 
further redaction? Can we not distinguish between the epistemological 
break as a principle internal to the theory and its historical application? 
This is a most significant problem, critical not only for our interpretation 
of Althusser but for the theory of ideology we are trying to develop. Does 
not Althusser overlook the decisive break between a philosophy of con- 
sciousness and an anthropological philosophy — for which the subjects of 
history are " 'real, concrete men' " (37)— because he reads into it a later 
problematic? For the same reason, does he not deny the importance of the 
transition from alienation to the division of labor, even though he acknowl- 
edges that the latter "commands the whole theory of ideology and the whole 
theory of science"(37)? Althusser says only of the division of labor that its 
role is "ambiguous" (37). In the case of the works prior to The German 
Ideology, it is easy to say that the concepts emphasized — consciousness, 
species being, alienation — are Feuerbachian ; Marx is here still involved in 
the world of the Young Hegelians. I maintain that the test case for the 
appearance of Marxism is The German Ideology and its attention to the 
concept of real individuals in their conditions. For Althusser, however, 
this concept no longer speaks by itself. It is an opaque notion made 
transparent only by a method imported from Marx's later problematic. 
Althusser's orientation has the fundamental consequence that the differ- 



e nces between the Manuscripts and The German Ideology, which I have 
ein p nas ized so much, become unessential. It is unessential that the Man- 
uSCT ipts puts consciousness at the forefront and that The German Ideology 
puts real individuals, because both concepts are still anthropological; they 
are part °^ an anthropological ideology. 

Althusser forges the concept of an anthropological ideology to cover the 
whole field in which the question is about human being as a whole, either 
in the language of consciousness or in the language of real life, the language 
of praxis. This is what I cannot accept. On the contrary, I think that Marx's 
great discovery in The German Ideology in his distinction between real life 
and consciousness. Althusser, though, believes he is right to say there is 
no decisive break here because of the necessity for a true theory, as we 
have seen, to account for itself. The assumption derived from the very 
notion of theory is that the ideological does not understand itself; Althusser 
argues against the view that "the world of ideology is its own principle of 
intelligibility" (57). 

The great advantage of Althusser's interpretation is that it provides a 
principle for reading Marx, a coherent reading that challenges most other 
Marxist readings' "eclecticism" (57). In his essay "On the Young Marx," 
Althusser criticizes some Eastern European interpreters who attempt to 
disentangle in the young Marx materialistic — and therefore truly Marx- 
ist — elements from concepts still Hegelian or Feuerbachian. Althusser says 
that we can no longer speak of elements; we must take an ideology as 
constituting a whole. The epistemological break is from whole to whole 
and not between parts or elements; it is between an old mode of thought 
and a new mode of thought, from one totality to another. 

An objection might be raised asking what justification Althusser has to 
deny his other Marxist opponents the right to read an end into Marx's early 
writings and to accuse these opponents of discarding certain elements and 
applying a teleological model to the whole. Does not Althusser himself 
judge the young Marx according to criteria belonging to the mature Marx? 
Althusser responds with three points (62-63). We sna " spend some time 
detailing these respones, but let me summarize them briefly. First, says 
Althusser, the application of the epistemological break to Marx himself 
preserves the specificity of each phase of his writing; "it is impossible to 
extract one element without altering its meaning" (62). Second, the work 
of the early Marx is not explained by that of the mature Marx but by its 
belonging to the ideological field of it time. Third, the motor principle of 



development is not in ideology itself but in what underlies it, actual history. 
(This claim already implies the theory of infrastructure and determination 
in the last instance.) Only at this level of attention, Althusser maintains, 
is explanation scientific and no longer ideological. As truth is the measure 
of error, mature Marxism expresses the truth about the young Marx, 
without needing to be already the truth of the young Marx. 

I shall return to Althusser's third point later but want to discuss at 
present his second. That an ideology is a whole means that it is not 
something individual or personal but is instead a field. To define what 
works may have in common requires us to identify their common ideolog- 
ical field. The notion of an ideological field is an implication of the epis- 
temologicayireak. What we break with is not this or that individual writing 
but a whole way of thinking. As a result, the notion of ideology becomes 
less individual and personal and more an anonymous way of thinking. This 
raises in turn a great difficulty: how to locate individual works within this 
field, how to pass from the field to a singularity. 

The emphasis on the concept of the field represents one of the infiltra- 
tions of structuralist concepts into the work of Althusser. The notion of 
the field comes from Gestalt psychology and the contrast there between a 
field and an object. An object — here individual works — is placed against 
the background of a field. Althusser has many expressions that seem more 
structuralist than Marxist but which become Marxist in his writings. The 
structuralist overtones in Althusser are evident in the following quotation ; 
note the allusion to the notion of the text in the sense articulated by Greimas 
and the French structuralists. 

At this level of the exchanges and conflicts that are the very substance of the texts 
in which his living thoughts have come down to us, it is as if the authors of these 
thoughts were themselves absent. The concrete individual who expresses himself 
in his thoughts and his writings is absent, so is the actual history expressed in the 
existing ideological field. As the author effaces himself in the presence of his 
published thoughts, reducing himself to their rigour, so concrete history effaces 
itself in the presence of its ideological themes, reducing itself to their system. This 
double absence will also have to be put to the test. But for the moment, everything 
is in play between the rigour of a single thought and the thematic system of an 
ideological field. (64; emphasis in the original) 

The notion of the effacement of the author of a text provides the transition 
between individual works, which lose their author, and an ideological field, 
which is anonymous by definition. We are asked to think something that 



is very difficult to conceive, the notion of a problematic constitutive of a 
definite ideological field, something that is a problem raised, in a sense, by 
„ 0 one. What we call a question requires some thinker to raise it, but here 
we must think of a problematic as something expressed by no one. The 
problematic is "the basic unity of a text, the internal essence of an ideolog- 
ical thought" (66). 

My question is whether Althusser's orientation has not dreadful conse- 
quences for the theory of meaning, because what is meant in a field if it is 
meant by nobody? Althusser might reply that he uses the concept of 
meaning too. Speaking of the typical systematic structure of a field, Al- 
thusser says that its determinate content is what "makes it possible both to 
conceive the meaning [sens] of the 'elements' of the ideology concerned — 
and to relate this ideology to the problems left or posed to every thinker 
by the historical period in which he lives" (67). Thus, it is not an individual 
but the historical period which raises questions. This is in agreement with 
what we earlier saw to be Althusser's third methodological principle : the 
emphasis on the theory of structure — the relation between infrastructure 
and superstructure — the emphasis on anonymous entities without subjects. 
How do we express, though, the suffering of the worker? All the vocabulary 
of alienation must disappear, since there is no alienation without someone 
alienated and suffering from this alienation. Althusser's conceptual frame- 
work allows us to speak only of fields, structures, and entities of that kind. 

We may further clarify Althusser's emphasis on the concept of the field 
by drawing some of the consequences of his interpretation for the concept 
of ideology. First, as we have seen, the concept of an ideological field tends 
to deemphasize the difference between the Manuscripts and The German 
Ideology. This is the main consequence of this concept. The Manuscripts 
and The German Ideology belong to the same ideological field; they are not 
individual works with different scopes and different concepts. The notion 
of an anthropological ideology becomes the ruling concept for the whole 
range of works which are not Marxist, at least in Althusser's sense of the 
term. The unity of these anthropological texts of Marx is based on their 
common problematic. "[T]he problematic of a thought is not limited to 
the domain of the objects considered by its author, because it is not an 
abstraction for the thought as a totality, but the concrete determinate 
structure of a thought and of all the thoughts possible within this thought" 
(68). As we can see, it is a very difficult notion. We must therefore think 
of an anthropological ideology as a field which generates several kinds of 



thoughts, including Feuerbach, the Manuscripts, and The German Ide< t U 
ogy. The identity of the separate works within the field is lost; this j s 
particularly significant for the loss of the fundamental distinction between 
the idealistic concept of consciousness and the concept of the real individual 
.under definite conditions, that anthropological realism of Marx's which I 
have praised so highly. 

The second major implication of Althusser's reading is that an ideology 
is not to be discussed as a thought that somebody assumes, because an 
ideology is not something that is thought, but rather something within 
which we think. This is a striking and perhaps unavoidable finding; it is 
not necessarily Marxist, either. It has also been emphasized, for example, 
by Eugen ,Fink, in a famous article on operative and thematic concepts. 1 
The import of this insight is that we cannot think everything that is involved 
in our thinking. We think with some concepts, by means of some concepts. 
This may be why it is impossible to have a radical transparency in what 
we think; we may thematize something, but in order to do so we use other 
concepts which are then not thematized, at least during the time that we 
apply them. In my own language, I would say that absolute reflexivity is 
impossible; we have available not total reflection but only partial reflection. 
Thus, it may be an important part of the concept of ideology that we cannot 
reflect on all our concepts. There are concepts through which we think or 
with which we think. Althusser says of a problematic : "in general a philos- 
opher thinks in it rather than thinking of it . . ." (69). This implies that 
an ideology is unconscious in the sense that it is not mastered by conscious- 
ness or self -consciousness. Althusser adds that an ideology's "own prob- 
lematic is not conscious of itself. . . . [nor] of its 'theoretical presupposi- 
tions' ..." (69). Perhaps there is something fundamental here, and not 
only in Marxist terms: it is impossible for us to bring everything to the 
level of consciousness. We rely on heritages, on traditions, on many things 
which helps us to think and to be, and these rule our approach to thinking. 
In this sense, ideology is something unsuperable. We must say that even 
Althusserian Marxists do not have all their thought in front of them. 
Perhaps this is the best use that we can make of the notion of a field, the 
fact that our thought is also a field and not only an object. There may also 
be some Freudian equivalents to this. 

For me the objection to this perspective is not the claim that everything 
is clear, that radical transparency is available ; instead the objection emerges 
by asking what kind of relation exists between a field and a thought if we 



do not have a motivational framework, a conceptual framework. If we put 
this relation in terms of causality, everything becomes obscure. If we say 
0 n the other hand that all our motives are not clear, then the relationship 
makes sense. The field of motivation, we may say, is behind us or under 
us The Freudian concept of the Es — id — is quite helpful here; we could 
say that there is a social Es too. For my part I would maintain that the 
relation between a singular thought and a field requires an individual living 
under the conditions of his or her own field. A field is part of the condition 
of an individual's circumstances. Thus, I think it makes more sense to use 
the language of The German Ideology and say that a thinker is within 
circumstances, in a situation, which he or she does not master, which is 
not transparent for him or her. In other words, does not the concept of a 
field belong in a more useful and helpful way to a motivational rather than 
to a causal relation? 

Another text of Althusser's on the relation between a field and a thought 
seems to open the possibility of an interpretation more similar to the one 
I have argued here: 

Let me summarize these reflections. Understanding an ideological argument im- 
plies, at the level of the ideology itself, simultaneous [en meme temps], conjoint 
knowledge of the ideological field in which a thought emerges and grows; and the 
exposure of the internal unity of this thought: its problematic. Knowledge of the 
ideological field itself presupposes knowledge of the problematics compounded or 
opposed in it. The interrelation of the particular problematic of the thought of the 
indvidual under consideration with the particular problematics of the thoughts 
belonging to the ideological field allows of a decision as to its author's specific 
differences, i.e., whether a new meaning has emerged. (70) 

Once more the question of the "specific difference" of The German Ideology 
arises. Has not a "new meaning . . . emerged" there? More generally, this 
quotation supports the view that if someone brings forth a new idea, this 
means that a new meaning has emerged in a field. Therefore, we must 
think of the field not in mechanical terms but as a kind of reserve, a resource, 
of possible thoughts. The relationship between thought and field makes 
sense only if we think in terms of meanings and not forces. Further, if we 
follow Althusser's argument that the anonymous field and an individual 
thought within this field are strictly contemporaneous, then we must always 
speak of the field of an individual thought or of this thought within the 
collective field. Thus, there is a reciprocity between field and indvidual 
thought, and we need to be able to conceptualize that. Here, once again, 


Althusser (i ) 

we should find useful The German Ideology's language of real individuals 
in circumstances; the field is one of these circumstances, perhaps the most 
fundamental circumstance. As you can see, I plead without hiding myself 
for The German Ideology and against the general language of Althusser. 
• As regards the reference of both individual thoughts and the ideological 
field to the "real authors of these as yet subjectless thoughts" (71), we art- 
sent back to the question of "the meaning of Marx's evolution and of its 
'motor' " (72). The word "motor" is placed in quotation marks but never- 
theless used. The claim is that an explanation which finds the "motor" in 
the history of ideology and not in the real basis of history is itself ideological 
What, though, about the epistemological break? The break is itself a 
problem: wjio makes the break, is it a break of the problematic or in the 
problematic? Althusser must go so far as to question not only the self- 
consciousness of ideology but that of Marx himself in relation to the break. 
"[T]o speak of real history ... is to question 'Marx's path' itself" (74). 
The meaning of Marx's own break through the crushing layer of ideology 
is not given by Marx's own consciousness. Is it not already difficult, 
however, to correlate German ideology with the backwardness of German 
politics and economics, to correlate its ideological overdevelopment with 
its historical underdevelopment? It is still more difficult to assign the break 
itself to such historical conditions. Is not "the rediscovery of real history,' 1 
the "return to real history" (76) an act of thought? More, if this return is 
a "retreat" to the pre-Hegelian, a movement back to "the reality of the 
objects Hegel had stolen by imposing on them the meaning of his own 
ideology," is not this return to "the objects themselves in their reality" (77) 
the very definition of thought? The discovery beneath ideology of devel- 
oped capitalism and class struggle is an act of thinking. Too much is given 
in Althusser to the concept of the field. The field provides an important 
way to avoid the ideological problematic of "the deformation of real his- 
torical problems into philosophical problems" (80 n.), but the notion of 
the break preserves the capacity for philosophical problems to be raised. 

Can we not say, then, that the capacity to put one's self in front of reality, 
the discovery by Marx of "the reality of the ideological opacity which had 
blinded him" (82) , entails the emergence of a new meaning and the presence 
of a thinker and of thought? Althusser is even more correct than he thinks 
when he says that there is more in the discovery of reality than in the 
Hegelian Aufltebung, which disentangles the already present end in the 
beginning. But what can be "a logic of actual experience and real emer- 



gence," "a logic of the irruption of history in ideology itself" (82)? Here 
there is no place for anything like an ideological field. On the contrary, 
yUthusser says that this logic gives at last some meaning to Marx's "personal 
style," his "sensitivity to the concrete" revealed in each of his "encounters 
urith reality" (82). 

The Marxist account of this "real emergence" is that it is "merely the 
effect of its own empirical conditions" (83 n.). It cannot derive from the 
ideological, according to this view, because ideology has no history. The 
conclusion seems to be that this emergence is somehow an absolute begin- 
ning- There remains the metaphor of breaking through the gigantic layers 
of illusion. Marx's relationship with his origins is not one of continuity but 
of a "prodigious break." Marx's path was one of "freeing himself from the 
myths" of his time. He had the breakthrough of "the experience of real 
history" (84). Resorting again to the metaphor of emergence, Althusser 
says that "the emergence [of Marx's discovery] was analogous to all the 
great scientific discoveries of history" in that it brought forth "a new horizon 
of meaning" (85). 

Althusser offers at least one qualification to the uncompromising notion 
of break. He observes that Marx did profit from his contact with Hegel to 
the extent it offered "practice in abstraction," the "practice in theoretical 
synthesis and the logic of a process for which the Hegelian dialectic gave 
him a 'pure,' abstract model" (85). This exception to Marx's break is a 
tremendous concession by Althusser. He tries to minimize it, however, by 
arguing that its role is less a "theoretical formation than ... a formation 
for theory, a sort of education of the theoretical intelligence via the theo- 
retical formations of ideology itself" (85). This "formation for theory" 
offered Marx "training ... in the manipulation of the abstract structure 
of [the German intellect's] systems, independently of their validity" (85). 
It seems, then, that the break is not absolute; a continuity in terms of 
formalism seems to persist. Is this not, however, the claim of Althusser's 
opponents? Althusser's response is that the change in the objects of analysis 
in the mature Marx also changes the nature of his method. This question 
anticipates my discussion in the following lectures. What we must keep in 
mind, though, is how Althusser speaks of Marx's discovering reality over 
against the ruling ideology. Althusser says that in Marx there appears "a 
new horizon of meaning" (85); this seems to imply, despite Althusser's 
intent, a thinker and a process of thought. 


Althusser (2) 

In the previous lecture on Althusser, I discussed his concept of the ideo- 
logical break and its epistemological implications. The particular reference 
was to Althusser's reappraisal and reinterpretation of the early Marx's work 
as an anthropological ideology. In the present lecture, I shall discuss 
Althusser's concept of ideology itself. This discussion will proceed in three 
steps: first, how is the problem of ideology placed in the superstructure- 
infrastructure framework; second, what can be said about particular ideol- 
ogies, such as religion or humanism; and third, what is the nature of 
ideology in general. 

As to the first topic, one of Althusser's most important contributions is 
his attempt to refine and improve the model of infrastructure and super- 
structure borrowed from Engels. As we recall, the model is summarized 
both by the efficiency in the last instance of the economic base — this base 
is the final cause, the prime mover — and by the relative autonomy of the 
superstructure, a model of the reciprocal action (Wechselwirkung) between 
base and superstructure. For Althusser, the first point we must understand 
is that whatever the value of Engels' model, it is, contrary to Engels' own 
beliefs, as far from Hegel's dialectic as possible. We have already empha- 
sized Althusser's critique of the metaphor of inversion; here Althusser's 
criticism focuses on Engels' commentary on this metaphor. In For Marx 
Althusser introduces the discussion by quoting the statement in Marx, 
appearing as late as Capital, on which Engels relies: " 'With [Hegel, the 
dialectic] is standing on its head. It must be turned right side up again, if 
you would discover the rational kernel within the mystical shell' " (89; 
brackets in original). Althusser maintains that this declaration is not as 
easily interpreted as first appears. Engels falsely believes that there is a 

Althusser (2) 


common element between Hegel and Marxism, the "rational kernel," and 
that there is need to drop only the "mystical shell . " This argument appeared 
frequently among Marxists, the thought being that it was possible to keep 
Heg e l' s dialectics and apply it no longer to the Hegelian Spirit but to new 
objects: to society, classes, and so on. The common use of dialectical 
argument would imply, so the argument goes, at least a formal continuity 
between Hegel and Marx. 

For Althusser, however, this is still to grant too much, and with good 
reason. We cannot treat the Hegelian dialectic as an empty or formal 
procedure since Hegel keeps repeating that the dialectic is the movement 
of the things themselves. Hegel is against any kind of formalism that would 
allow us first to establish a method of thinking and then to go on to solve 
the problem of metaphysics. This is what he discards in Kant. The entire 
preface of the Phenomenology of Spirit is written exactly against the claim 
that we must first have a method and then do philosophy. For Hegel, 
philosophy is the method, it is the Selbstdarstellung, the self-presentation 
of its own content. It is not possible to separate method from content in 
order to retain the method and apply it to new content. Therefore, even 
the structure of the dialectic in Hegel (negation, negation of negation) 
must be considered as heterogenous to the structure of the dialectic in 
Marx. If it is true that we cannot separate method from content, and I am 
sure that it is, then we must define the Marxist dialectic in terms that leave 
only the word "dialectic" in common with Hegel. The question then is: 
why the same word? In fact we should drop the word or say either that 
there is no dialectic in Hegel or no dialectic in Marx; but this is another 

In place of the Hegelian dialectic Althusser substitutes the concept of 
overdetermination. This concept is obviously borrowed from Freud, al- 
though there is also an implication of Lacan. (The influence of Lacan is 
permanent in all Althusser's work and increasingly evident in his later 
essays.) To introduce the concept of overdetermination, Althusser starts 
from a remark by Lenin, when Lenin raises the question: how was it 
possible that the socialist revolution occurred in Russia, when Russia was 
not the most advanced industrial country? Lenin's response is that to claim 
that revolution should occur in the most industrial country implies that 
the economic basis is not only determinant in the last instance but the sole 
determinant factor. What we must realize, then, is that the economic basis 
never works alone; it always acts in combination with other elements: 



national character, national history, traditions, international events, and 
accidents of history — wars, defeats, and so on. An event like a revolution 
is not the mechanical result of the basis but something involving all the 
"various levels and instances of the social formation" (101). It is a combi- 
nation of forces. This nexus is what Althusser calls overdetermination and 
opposes to the Hegelian contradiction. 

It is difficult, though, to locate exactly the difference between Althusser 
and Hegel on this point. We could say that there is overdetermination in 
Hegel also. In whatever chapter we read in the Phenomenology, each figure 
has so many conflicting elements that precisely the dialectic must proceed 
toward another figure. We may say that the instability of the figure is a 
product of^its overdetermination. Althusser's claim, and I am less con- 
vinced by this argument, is that there exists in Hegel no real overdeter- 
mination involving heterogeneous factors. Instead, Althusser argues, the 
process is one of cumulative internalization, which is only apparently an 
overdetermination. In spite of the complexity of a historical form in Hegel, 
it is actually simple in its principle. Though the content of the Hegelian 
figure may not be simple, its meaning is, because finally it is one figure, 
whose unity is immanent in its form. In Hegel, says Althusser, an epoch 
has "an internal spiritual principle, which can never definitely be anything 
but the most abstract form of that epoch's consciousness of itself: its 
religious or philosophical consciousness, that is, its own ideology" (103). 
The "mystical shell" affects and contaminates the supposed rational "ker- 
nel." For Althusser, therefore, Hegel's dialectic is typically idealistic: even 
if a historical period has complex elements, it is ruled by one idea, it has a 
unity of its own. The point, then, is that if we assume with Althusser the 
simplicity of the Hegelian form, such that it can be encapsulated in a label 
like the master-slave relation or Stoicism, the contrast is to the complexity 
of Marxist contradiction. The complexity of the contradictions spawning 
the Russian Revolution are not an accident in Marxist theory but rather 
the rule. The argument is that the contradictions are always this complex. 

If we put together this notion of overdetermination with Engels' concept 
of causality in the last instance by the basis and the reaction back on the 
basis by the superstructure, we then have a richer concept of causality. We 
see that in fact the infrastructure is always determined by all the other 
components. There is a combination of levels and structures. This position 
was originally developed, we must not forget, to counter the mechanicist 
trend in Marxism — represented particularly by the German Social Dem- 



ocratic Party. This mechanicism, which endorsed a fatalistic or determin- 
istic view of history, was denounced by Gramsci in an interesting argument 
reproduced by Althusser. Gramsci says that it is always those with the 
most active will who believe in determinism; they find in this fatalism of 
history a confirmation of their own actions. (In a certain sense this is quite 
similar to the Calvinistic notion of predestination.) Proponents believe that 
they are the chosen people of history, and therefore there is a certain 
necessity in history's movement. Althusser quotes Gramsci's strong state- 
ment that fatalism has been " 'the ideological "aroma" of the philosophy 
of praxis' " (105 n.). The word "aroma" is an allusion to Marx's early essay 
on Hegel's Philosophy of Right. Just as Marx criticized there the illusions 
of religion's spiritual aroma, here fatalism is subject to the same censure. 

Can we say that Althusser's introduction of the concept of overdeter- 
mination in any way displaces the causalist framework of infrastructure 
and superstructure? In actuality this framework is more reinforced than 
qualified by this analysis. Althusser repeatedly affirms that the notion of 
infrastructure and superstructure is what gives meaning to overdetermi- 
nation, not the contrary. He acknowledges that it is Engels' formula which 
in fact rules his own concept of overdetermination. Perhaps it is a conces- 
sion to Marxist orthodoxy, I am not sure, but Althusser is very clear on 
this point. Speaking of the accumulation of effective determinations (de- 
rived from the superstructure) on determination in the last instance by the 
economic, Althusser says: "It seems to me that this clarifies the expression 
overdetermined contradiction, which I have put forward, this specifically 
because the existence of overdetermination is no longer a fact pure and 
simple, for in its essentials we have related it to its bases . . ." (113). The 
concept of overdetermination does not help to overcome the weakness of 
the concept of infrastructure and superstructure, since it is only a com- 
mentary on the same argument. The framework of causality is affected not 
at all. 

As a sign that this framework is still troublesome for Althusser — there 
is a great sincerity and modesty in all his texts — Althusser says that when 
we put together the determination in the last instance by the economy and 
the reaction back on the infrastructure by the superstructure, we hold only 
"the two ends of the chain" (1 12). This expression is an allusion to Leibniz' 
description of the problematic relationship between determinations made 
by God and determinations made by human free will. Thus, Marxism 
repeats a paradox that was typically theological, the paradox of the ultimate 


Althusser (2) 

determination; at issue is the relative effectivity of independent actors in a 
play decided elsewhere and by someone else. 

[I]t has to be said that the theory of the specific effectivity of the superstructure 
and other "circumstances" largely remains to be elaborated; and before the theory 
of their effectivity or simultaneously . . . there must be elaboration of the theory 
of the particular essence of the specific elements of the superstructure. (113-14) 

The role of overdetermination remains more than a solution. It is a way of 
qualifying a concept which itself remains quite opaque. 

This is why I wonder whether it would not be more helpful to start from 
the Freudian-Althusserian concept of overdetermination, to take it for 
itself, and then try to see whether it does not imply another theoretical 
framework^than that of superstructure and infrastructure. My alternative 
would be a motivational framework; this structure would allow us to 
understand that it is in fact in terms of motives and motivation that we 
may speak of the overdetermination of a meaning. Perhaps without a 
concept of meaning, we cannot speak adequately about overdetermination. 
The concept of overdetermination, I think, does not necessarily require a 
causalist framework. What confirms this attempted change is that, accord- 
ing to Althusser himself, we must grant some meaning to the relative 
autonomy of the superstructural sphere. 

[A] revolution in the structure [of society] does not ipso facto modify the existing 
superstructures and particularly the ideologies at one blow (as it would if the 
economic was the sole determinant factor), for they have sufficient of their own 
consistency to survive beyond their immediate life context, even to recreate, to 
"secrete" substitute conditions of existence temporarily. . . . (115-16) 

The superstructure is a layer with its own consistency and finally its own 
history. As the intriguing Marxist theory of "survivals" attempts to take 
into account, we must come to understand why, for example, bourgeois 
morality persists even after a period of social transformation. My claim is 
that such practices may continue to prevail precisely because a certain 
strain of motives survives the change in the social framework. To my mind 
at least, the independence, autonomy, and consistency of ideologies pre- 
suppose another framework than that of superstructure and infrastructure. 

Let me turn, though, away from this theme to what is the most inter- 
esting topic for us in Althusser, the theory of ideologies themselves, ideol- 
ogies considered for their own sake. Althusser undertakes this treatment 
in two steps, and this is expressed in my own treatment of the problem : 

Althusser (2) 


first he speaks of particular ideologies, and then he tries to say something 
about ideology in general. The distinction between these two themes is not 
made very clearly in For Marx but appears rather in a later, very abstract 
article called "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses." This article, 
included in Lenin and Philosophy, will be at the center of our attention 
when we discuss Althusser's theory of ideology in general, but let me quote 
it briefly here to indicate how Althusser introduces the distinction in 
question. "[I]f I am able to put forward the project of a theory of ideology 
i n general, and if this theory really is one of the elements on which theories 
of ideology in general, and if this'theory really is one of the elements on 
which theories of ideologies depend, that entails an apparently paradoxical 
proposition which I shall express in the following way: ideology has no 
history" (159; emphases in original). Mainly under the influence once 
more of Freud and Lacan, Althusser says that we need to pursue a theory 
of ideology in general, just as metapsychology is a theory of the unconscious 
in general, an inquiry separate from specific treatment of the expressions 
of the unconscious found in such particular areas as mental illness, art, 
ethics, religion, and so on. As we shall see, the reason ideology in general 
has no history is because it is a permanent structure. Freud's metapsy- 
chology is Althusser's model for the relation between particular ideologies 
and ideology in general. For our purposes, examination of the nature of 
ideology in general is the more interesting question, and so I shall treat the 
problem of particular ideologies fairly quickly. 

The approach to a theory of ideology through analysis of particular 
ideologies is more or less imposed by the Marxist model, where ideologies 
are always presented in an enumeration. Those familiar with Marxist texts 
may have noticed that when Marx himself discusses ideology, he contin- 
ually opens a parenthesis and refers to specific — that is, religious, ethical, 
aesthetic, and political — ideologies. It is by enumeration of these forms 
that Marx builds the more general analysis, a method quite similar to 
Descartes' analysis of the cogito. We should not forget either that Marx 
also proceeded historically by a similar process: from the critique of reli- 
gion, to the critique of philosophy, and then to the critique of politics. 
The dispersion of ideologies is an important aspect of the problem, the 
fact that there are ideologies, in the plural. We should note, however, that 
within Marxist texts as a whole the framework of response to this problem 
is not always the same. In some texts the word "ideology" is used to cover 
all that is not economic, while in others differentiation is made between 


Althusser (2) 

economics, politics, and ideologies. In his own comprehensive concept of 
ideology in his later work, Althusser himself identifies the political structure 
as a particular ideology. 

Let me offer two examples of Althusser's adoption of this enumerative 
approach: his treatment of humanism and of the state. In For Marx the 
paradigmatic example of a particular ideology is humanism. Humanism is 
treated as an ideology and as an ideology that has determinant boundaries. 
It is defined as a specific anthropological field. It is therefore a cultural 
pattern, something to which some people belong and others do not. A 
particular ideology may be contrasted to ideology in general, which is not 
a historical pattern but a permanent structure, just like the Freudian 
unconscious. Again, the attraction of Freudian concepts is most important. 
In spite of tfie narrowness of the concept of ideology when identified with 
one problematic among others, this concept is nevertheless quite revealing 
about the structure of ideology in general, since in fact the general structure 
of ideology in Althusser repeats the structure of humanism, as we shall 

The case of humanism is crucial in another respect, since it gives us the 
right to put The German Ideology within the same anthropological field as 
the earlier texts. What defines humanism, even that which is called socialist 
humanism, is a common participation in the same ideology. Therefore, 
Althusser considers the rebirth of humanism in modern Marxism a return 
to Feuerbach and the early Marx; it belongs to the same anthropological 
field. Althusser's analysis of humanism is a central illustration of his un- 
compromising denial of any conceptual blending between ideology and 
science. " [I]n the couple 'humanism-socialism' there is a strikingtheoretical 
unevenness: in the framework of the Marxist conception [Althusser's own, 
of course], the concept 'socialism' is indeed a scientific concept, but the 
concept 'humanism' is no more than an ideological one" (223)- For Al- 
thusser, humanist socialism is a monstrous kind of concept. Unfortunately, 
this position sometimes has severe political implications. During the 1968 
invasion of Czechoslovakia, for example, Althusser kept silent; his stance 
allowed him to argue that purely theoretically, the reform movement was 
wrong. The Czechoslovak socialists were attempting something that does 
not exist — humanistic socialism; they relied on an impure concept. 

The argument against linking the concept of humanism to that of so- 
cialism is that the former "designates some existents, but it does not give 
us their essences" (223). The argument is Platonic, an objection that 


humanism speaks of existence — human beings, life, and so on — and not 
conceptual structure. Althusser's perspective is a necessary consequence 
of the epistemological break, which places both the Manuscripts' idealism 
0 f consciousness and The German Ideology's concrete anthropology on the 
gjme — and wrong — side. In his strongest statement about Marx's theo- 
retical antihumanism, Althusser says: 

Strictly in respect to theory, therefore, one can and must speak openly of Marx's 
theoretical anti-humanism, and see in this theoretical anti-humanism the absolute 
(negative) precondition of the (positive) knowledge of the human world itself, and 
of its practical transformation. It is impossible to know anything about men except 
on the absolute precondition that the philosophical (theoretical) myth of man is 
reduced to ashes. So any thought that appeals to Marx for any kind of restoration 
of a theoretical anthropology or humanism is no more than ashes, theoretically. 

Here is perhaps the common side to Althusser, the French structuralist 
group in general, and others like Michel Foucault: the idea that the "phil- 
osophical . . . myth of man" must be reduced to ashes. On the basis of this 
orientation, I do not see how it would be possible to build, for example, a 
protest against the betrayal of rights. Someone like Sakharov must be 
treated as an ideologist, but Althusser would say that Nobel Prizes are both 
given to ideologists and, even more surely, given by ideologists. 

Nevertheless, we have a hint of something else in this analysis, when 
Althusser says that knowledge of an object does not replace the object or 
dissipate its existence (230) . To say that something is theoretically no more 
than ashes means that we do not change its reality by arguing that it does 
not really exist. To know that an ideology has no theoretical status is not 
to abolish it. Here again there is a reminiscence not only of Spinoza — that 
in the second kind of knowledge the first one survives — but also of Freud, 
when Freud says that it is not enough in a therapeutic process to understand 
intellectually, if the balance of forces — of repression and so on — has not 
changed also. To explain to someone that he or she is caught in an ideology 
is not sufficient; it does not change the situation. The claim that something 
is "no more than ashes, theoretically" is only a qualified claim. 

We must deal, then, with a strange necessity: we know that humanism 
has no theoretical status, but yet it has a kind of factual existence. By 
relating humanism to its condition of existence, Althusser says, we can 
recognize its necessity as an ideology ; it has, in Althusser's strange phrase, 
a "conditional necessity" (231). Althusser must resort to this term because 

J 3 2 

Altkusser (2) 

if Marxism is more than a science, if it is a politics, and if politics is £ tsc 1 f 
based on the assertion that human beings have certain rights, then Marxism 
must take something from the ideological sphere in order to accomplish 
something practically. The conjunction between ideology and science i s a 
• conditional necessity" required by action, but this practical conjunction 
does not abolish their theoretical break. As we can see, it is very difficult 
to comprehend that there may be something abolished theoretically but 
still existent in such a way that we must rely on it in order to act. 

A second example in Althusser of a partial or regional ideology — the 
language is somewhat Husserlian — is the state. Here too Althusser intro- 
duces some important changes in Marxist theory. Althusser's main im- 
provements engendered by his linking ideology to its political function, 
that is, to the question of the reproduction of the system, the reproduction 
of the conditions of production. This problem has become quite popular 
among modern Marxists; their view is that Marx studied the conditions of 
production, but there must also be reflection on the conditions of the 
system's reproduction. Examination must be undertaken of all those insti- 
tutions which have the function of reinforcing and reproducing the system's 

To make sense of this concept of reproduction, Althusser has to improve 
the rigid Marxist concept of the state, which originates in Lenin. In State 
and Revolution Lenin views the state as merely a structure of coercion. 
The function of the state is repression. Nothing is left from Hegel's ideal- 
ized concept of the state as the integration of individuals who know them- 
selves as citizens through the constitution. On the contrary, Lenin's view 
of the state is extremely pessimistic : the state is an instrument of repression, 
of coercion, for the benefit of the ruling class. The dictatorship of the 
proletariat will consist in the inversion of this coercive tool and its use 
against the enemies of this transformed state. Stalin effectively used this 
notion of inversion to enforce his own position, arguing that he was simply 
using the bourgeois structure of the state against its enemy. On the day 
these enemies disappear, he said, then there will no longer be a need for 
the state. 

Althusser's contribution in Lenin and Philosophy is to say that we must 
in fact distinguish two aspects of state power. The first is the repressive 
and coercive state apparatuses: government, administration, police, courts, 
prisons, and so on. The second is the ideological state apparatuses : religion , 
education, the family, the political system, communications, culture, and 

Altkusser (2) 


s o forth (143)- The structure of the state is both repressive and ideological. 
To any who might object that introduction of ideology into the theory of 
the state involves inclusion of something private and not public, Althusser 
responds that this division between public and private is a bourgeois 
concept. If we deny the bourgeois concepts, which depend on the concept 
of private property, then we must consider the state as a system of appa- 
ratuses which extend far beyond administrative functions. Only for the 
bourgeois mentality are there private and public spheres. For Marxist 
theory these two spheres represent aspects of the same function. 

We may connect the importance of the state's ideological apparatuses 
with the problem of the system's need to reproduce itself by understanding 
that this reproduction occurs through such ideological state apparatuses as 
education. I know many leftist educators in Europe — in Germany, Italy, 
France — who use this notion of reproduction to argue that the function of 
the school is to reproduce the system, not only by the teaching of techno- 
logical skills but by the reproduction in students of the rules of the system. 
The system is maintained by the reproduction of its rule. (Once again 
there is an intersection with Freud; the ideological state apparatus has its 
counterpart in the superego.) 

The reproduction of labour power thus reveals as its sine qua rum not only the 
reproduction of its "skills" but also the reproduction of its subjection to the ruling 
ideology or of the "practice" of that ideology, with the proviso that it is not enough 
to say "not only but also," for it is clear that it is in the forms and under the forms 
of ideological subjection that provision is made for the reproduction of the skills of 
labour power. (133) 

A system of oppression survives and prevails thanks to this ideological 
apparatus which both places individuals in subjection and at the very same 
time maintains and reproduces the system. Reproduction of the system 
and ideological repression of the individual are one and the same. Althus- 
ser's analysis here is quite powerful. We have to join two ideas: a state 
functions not only by power but also by ideology, and it does so for the 
sake of its own reproduction. 

There are parallels to this analysis outside Marxism. In Plato, for ex- 
ample, the role played by the sophists demonstrates that no master rules 
by pure force. The ruler must convince, must seduce; a certain distortion 
of language always accompanies the use of power. Naked power never 
works; in the use of political power an ideological mediation is unavoidably 
involved. My question, therefore, is not at all whether Althusser's descrip- 



tion is a good one. I did not raise that question with Marx, nor do I do so 
here. Instead, it is the concepts used which interest me, and in this context 
particularly the notion of apparatus. This concept belongs to the same 
anonymous language as superstructure and infrastructure. It is not b\ 
chance that Althusser's term is apparatus and not institution, because an 
apparatus is more mechanical. An apparatus is something which functions 
and therefore it has more conceptual kinship with structures and repro- 
duction, with structural language in general. All these functions are anon- 
ymous and can exist and go on by themselves. If, however, we raise the 
question: but how do these functions work, do we not need to introduce, 
once again, some element like persuasion and therefore a certain capturing 
of motivation f Once more the problem is one of legitimacy, of the claim 
to legitimacy and the process of justification, and I do not see how these 
issues work within the language of apparatus. My difficulty is with the 
conceptual framework of causality at a place where I think another — 
motivational — framework would be more helpful. The causal framework 
has been imposed at the beginning by the notion of the determinant factor 
in the last instance, and consequently all of the new and quite interesting 
changes Althusser introduces in Marxist theory have to be put within this 
imperative framework. 

Let us set this point aside, though, and turn to the most interesting part 
of Althusser's analysis, his attempt to provide a definition of ideology in 
general. This attempt will be decisive for the rest of the lectures as a whole. 
Althusser's attempt allows us to move from what we might call a geography 
of ideologies to a theory of ideology. Althusser's discussion is located in 
two principal texts, pages 231-36 of For Marx and pages 158-83 of Lenin 
and Philosophy. The latter is the section of "Ideology and Ideological State 
Apparatuses" entitled "On Ideology" and is Althusser's most discussed 
text. I shall leave this text for the next lecture. 

In For Marx Althusser puts forward three or four programmatic defi- 
nitions of ideology, attempts to try, to test, and nothing more than that, 
since he thinks that this effort has not been undertaken in previous Marxist 
theory. As we shall see, Althusser's definitions may not be so easy to 
combine. Althusser's first definition is readily understood, though, because 
it is an application of the distinction between science and ideology. 

There can be no question of attempting a profound definition of ideology here. It 
will suffice to know very schematically that an ideology is a system (with its own 
logic and rigour) of representations (images, myths, ideas or concepts, depending 

Althusser (2) 

J 35 

0 n the case) endowed with a historical existence and role within a given society. 
Without embarking on the problem of the relations between a science and its 
(ideological) past, we can say that ideology, as a system of representations, is 
distinguished from science in that in it the practico-social function is more important 
than the theoretical function (function as knowledge). (231) 

There are four or five important notions here. First, ideology is a system; 
this is consistent with what Althusser called a field — an anthropological 
field, for example — or a problematic. All these concepts overlap. Of what 
is ideology a system, though? A system of representation. This is its second 
trait. Althusser uses the vocabulary of the idealistic tradition; the vocab- 
ulary of idealism is preserved in the definition of ideology as Vorstellung, 
representation. Third trait, ideology has a historical role. Ideology is not 
a shadow, as it is in some Marxist texts, since it plays a role in the historical 
process. It is a part of the process of overdetermination. Thus, we must 
connect the notion of ideology's historical existence to its contribution to 
the overdetermination of events. All these traits are very coherent. What 
is more problematic is ideology's fourth trait, the relative import Althusser 
ascribes to ideology's practico-social function in contrast to its theoretical 
function. This trait is more difficult to accept because if, for example, we 
call humanism an ideology, surely it has some very theoretical claims. To 
take another case, what work is more theoretical than Hegel's? Althusser's 
point is quite difficult to comprehend, because nothing is more theoretical 
than idealism; Feuerbach and the young Marx in fact opposed Hegel's 
work precisely because it was theory and not praxis. Suddenly in Althusser, 
however, we discover that praxis is ideological and only science is theoret- 
ical. I do not see how Althusser's point here can be maintained. 

Althusser's second definition of ideology is more within the framework 
of the opposition between the illusory and the real. As we recall from earlier 
lectures, this analysis has some grounds in the young Marx. This second 
definition of Althusser's will prevail in his later texts. Notice in the follow- 
ing quotation the use of the phrase "lived relation," vecu; this is the 
vocabulary of Husserl and of Merleau-Ponty, the language of existential 

So ideology is a matter of the lived relation between men and their world. This 
relation, that only appears as "conscious" on condition that it is unconscious, in 
the same way only seems to be simple on condition that it is complex, that it is not 
a simple relation but a relation between relations, a second degree relation. 

This is a torturous way of saying that ideology reflects in the form of an 


Althusser (2) 

imaginary relation something which is already an existing relation, that is 
the relation of human beings to their world. The lived relation is reflected 
as ideology. The more important part of the text follows: 

In ideology men do indeed express, not the relation between them and their 
conditions of existence, but the way they live the relation between them and their 
conditions of existence: this presupposes both a real relation and an "imaginary, " 
"lived" relation. Ideology, then, is the expression of the relation between men anj 
their "world," that is, the (overdetermined) unity of the real relation and the 
imaginary relation between them and their real conditions of existence. In ideology 
the real relation is inevitably invested in the imaginary relation, a relation that 
expresses a will (conservative, conformist, reformist or revolutionary), a hope or a 
nostalgia, rather than describing a reality. (233-34) 


The vocabulary here is quite interesting, not only because we have the 
notion of the lived relation, but because this relation is lived in an imaginary 
mode. In an ideology the way of living this relation is imaginary. This 
definition introduces an important shift from the vocabulary of the young 
Marx, which it at first sight resembles. While in the young Marx the real 
and the imaginary are opposed, here the lived and the imaginary are coupled 
together. An ideology is both lived and imaginary, it is the lived as ima- 
ginary. Therefore, we have a real relation which is distorted in an imaginary 
relation. Anticipating our later discussion, we may note that it is difficult 
to adjust this definition to the rest of Althusser's work, since Althusser 
speaks here of the real relations of real individuals, even though real 
individuals do not belong to the basic phenomena. More generally, though, 
it seems that to give an account of ideology we must speak the language of 
ideology; we must speak of individuals constructing dreams instead of 
living their real life. 

Althusser also introduces at this point the notion of overdetermination 
as applied no longer to the relation between instances — between elements 
of the superstructure and infrastructure — but to the relationship between 
the real and the imaginary. The concept of overdetermination is used in a 
context that is closer to Freud than to Marx; the mixture of the real and 
the imaginary is what Freud calls a compromise formation, and it is this 
notion that rules Althusser's analysis at this point. "It is in this overdeter- 
mination of the real by the imaginary and of the imaginary by the real that 
ideology is active in principle ..." (234). Thus, ideology is not something 
bad, it is not something that we attempt to put behind us; instead, it is 

Althusser (2) 


something that pushes us, a system of motivation. Ideology is a system of 
jjjotivation that proceeds from the lack of a clear distinction between the 
r eal and the unreal. 

In his third definition of ideology, Althusser writes of ideology as ex- 
pressed in the language of layers, of instances. Althusser needs this lan- 
guage to preserve ideology's reality, its real existence in history. As real, 
ideology must involve real instances, real layers, and not merely imaginary 
elements; the imaginary has a kind of inexistence. In his later article on 
"Ideological Apparatuses," Althusser will try to adjust the definition of 
ideology to include both the terms of illusion and the terms of historical 
existence, arguing that ideology has its materiality in the famous ideological 
apparatus. The apparatus will give a certain material existence to these 
dreams. At the time of For Marx, however, Althusser had not yet solved 
this subtle discrepancy between his definitions. His third definition of 
ideology moves from the language of the lived to the language of instances. 

So ideology is as such an organic part of every social totality. It is as if human 
societies could not survive without these specific formations, these systems of 
representations (at various levels), their ideologies. Human societies secrete ide- 
ology as the very element and atmosphere indispensable to their historical respi- 
ration and life. Only an ideological world outlook could have imagined societies 
without ideology and accepted the Utopian idea of a world in which ideology (not 
just one of its historical forms) would disappear without trace, to be replaced by 
science. (232) 

This text is quite positive toward ideology; it is a plea for recognition of 
ideology's indispensability. Althusser argues against the Utopian view of 
those technocrats who believe that we are now beyond the age of ideologies, 
that we may now speak of the death of ideologies. In opposition to this 
theme, famous both in Europe and in this country, Althusser contends 
that there will always be ideology, because people have to make sense of 
their lives. This task is not the province of science, which cannot do 
everything, but rather the function of ideology. Althusser goes far in the 
direction of a positive appreciation of ideology. It is difficult, though, to 
think of ideology simultaneously as illusion (Althusser's second definition) 
and as a real instance essential to the historical life of societies. Perhaps the 
mediating point is the Nietzschean view that we need illusions to survive 
the hardness of life, that we would die if we saw the real truth of human 
existence. Also involved here may be the pessimistic view that people want 



ideologies because science does not give their lives meaning. Althusser is 
very antipositivist and again typifies as Utopian the positivist view that 
science will one day replace ideology. 

[TJhis Utopia is the principle behind the idea that ethics, which is in its essence 
ideology, could be replaced by science or become scientific through and through ■ 
or that religion could be destroyed by science which would in some way take its 
place; that art could merge with knowledge or become "everyday life," etc. (232) 

Against those who maintain that ethics, religion, and art are "survivals," 
lingering remnants of earlier nonscientific eras, Althusser tends to say that 
they are necessary ingredients of any society. Ideologies are indispensable; 
science cannot be everything. 

For my part, I interpret this turn of Althusser's in the following way. If 
we raise the requirements of science so highly, then it is beyond our access. 
The higher in fact that we raise the concept of science, the broader becomes 
the field of ideology, because each is defined in relation to the other. If w e 
reinforce the scientific requirement of a theory, then we lose its capacity 
for making sense of ordinary life. Therefore, the field of ideology is so wide 
because the field of science is so narrow. At least this is my interpretation 
of Althusser's discussion here. Althusser's differentiation between science 
and ideology explains his positive recognition of ideology as something in 
the indeterminate state of not being true but yet necessarily vital, a vital 
illusion. This perspective provides a way to interpret Marx's statement 
that in a class society ruling ideas have to take the form of universality. 
This necessity is not a lie, it is not a trick, for it is imposed by the 
unavoidable imaginary structure itself. No one can think without believing 
that what he or she thinks is in some basic sense true. The illusion is a 
necessary one. 

The persistence of this illusion that is ideology extends even unto the 
hypothesized classless society. Whatever the classless society may mean — 
and again I do not discuss it at all in political terms but only according to 
its own condition of intelligibility — it has about it a quality of the eternal . 
(In Althusser's "Ideological Apparatuses" article, the word "eternal" re- 
turns and is compared to Freud's description of the atemporality of the 
unconscious.) Similarly, ideology is also atemporal. "[I]t is clear that 
ideology (as a system of mass representations) is indispensable in any 
society if men are to be formed, transformed and equipped to respond to 
the demands of their conditions of existence" (235). The suggestion is that 



in every society, even in one where by hypothesis class struggle no longer 
exists, there will always be a situation of inadequation between the demands 
of reality and our ability to cope. I am reminded of Freud's comments 
concerning death and the hardness of life, the fact that the price of reality 
is too high. The requirements of the conditions of reality are high, and our 
capacity to adjust to reality is limited. 

It is in ideology that the classless society lives the inadequacy/adequacy of the 
relation between it and the world, it is in it and by it that it transforms men's 
"consciousness," that is, their attitudes and behaviour so as to raise them to the 
levels of their tasks and the conditions of their existence. (235) 

We have here nearly a fourth definition of ideology as the the system of 
means by which we try to adjust our capacity to change to the actual 
conditions of change in society in general. Therefore, ideology has a certain 
ethical function; it attempts to make sense of the accidents of life, the 
painful aspects of existence. We must introduce an existential language; 
when we speak of contradiction, it is not a logical contradiction, a conflict 
between structures, but a lived contradiction, a contradiction between our 
capacity to adjust and the demands of reality. 

To my mind, Althusser's definitions of ideology in general raise the 
following questions. My broadest question is: if we assume the value of 
Althusser's analysis, are we any longer able to speak of ideology simply as 
nonscience? Under this theme, several more specific questions follow, 
which I shall return to in later lectures. First, is not the quasi-ethical 
function of ideology just as valuable as science? Second, how can we 
understand the notion of the imaginary if the real is not already symbolically 
mediated? Third, is not the most primitive function of ideology — that 
which is said to emerge in classless society — not distortive but integrative? 
And finally, how do we know ideology if not because it belongs to a 
fundamental anthropology; is it not only within this philosophical anthro- 
pology that the vocabulary of Althusser's definitions — "men," "conditions 
of existence," "demands," "attitudes and behaviour" — makes sense? Is 
there not, therefore, a primitive connection between the lived and the 
imaginary that is more radical than any distortion? 

The point about Althusser's expressions is that they belong to the vo- 
cabulary of humanism. To speak of ideology we must rejuvenate the 
vocabulary of humanism. Even in the concluding sentence of his discus- 
sion — a sentence perhaps, though, a concession to the reader — Althusser 


Althusser (2) 

resorts to this vocabulary. "In a classless society ideology is the relav 
whereby, and the element in which, the relation between men and their 
conditions of existence is lived to the profit of all men" (236). Who would 
say more than this, that we are all dreaming of the kind of society in which 
the relations between human beings and their conditions of existence are 
lived to the profit of all? But this is precisely the discourse of ideology. We 
must assume at least part of the discourse of ideology in order to speak of 
ideology. It seems as if we cannot speak of ideology in another language 
than its own. If we utilize the Althusserian language of science, then we 
can speak only of apparatuses, instances, structures, and superstructures 
and infrastructures, but not of "conditions of existence," "attitudes and 
behaviour," ajid so on. At least to a certain extent, therefore, only ideology 
may speak about ideology. 

A few more points also need to be made about Althusser's contention 
that the "disproportion of historical tasks to their conditions" (238) justifies 
the necessity of ideology. This relationship must be lived in order to 
become a contradiction and to be treated scientifically. The relation of 
disproportion also reinforces the prestige of the concept of alienation. 
Althusser maintains, as we have seen, that this concept can be done away 
with, but are we able to deny it theoretically and preserve it practically? 
Are not the lived contradictions the conditions for the so-called real rela- 
tions? Althusser responds that if we return to the language of alienation, 
it is because we do not yet have a science of ideology. It is a provisory 
language in the absence of an adequate language. "Within certain limits 
this recourse to ideology might indeed be envisaged as the substitute for a 
recourse to theory" (240) or as "a substitute for an insufficient theory" 
(241). Althusser has accused all Marxist thinkers of theoretical weakness, 
but he assumes a certain theoretical weakness for himself in order to speak 
about ideology in positive terms. Because of the present weakness of our 
theory, he says, we need the language of ideology in order to speak of 
ideology ; one day, however, our theory will be strong enough to cast aside 
this vocabulary. This argument is for me the most questionable of Althus- 
ser's claims. The question is whether this alleged confusion of ideology 
and scientific theory is not required by the problem itself. Does not this 
"confusion" in fact express the impossibility of drawing the line between 
the lived contradiction and the real basis? In order to speak in a meaningful 
way of ideology, do we not have to speak of the motives of people, of 
individuals in certain circumstances, of the adequate or inadequate relation 

Althusser (2) 


between human behavior and its conditions? We cannot eliminate as a 
problem the status of a philosophical anthropology if we want to speak 
about these issues. 

The next lecture turns to Althusser's article on "Ideological Apparatuses" 
and analyzes the theory of ideology in general that is articulated there. This 
analysis will conclude our discussion of Althusser. 

Althusser (3) 

In the lectures on Althusser, we have taken as a leading thread the contrast 
between ideology and science. In emphasizing the break between ideology 
and science, the trend of Marxism represented by Althusser reinforces the 
scientific nature of its own theoretical claims. Anything that cannot be 
expressed scientifically is said to be ideological. What defines this Marxist 
science is its turn away from concepts with an anthropological basis to 
concepts of a rather different kind: forces of production, modes of pro- 
duction, relations of productions, classes, and so on. The language is 
distinctly nonanthropological. This epistemological break between the two 
sets of concepts provides the main framework for the theory of ideology. 
Within this framework Althusser attempts to refine and improve Engels' 
model concerning superstructure and infrastructure, since the notion of 
ideology is identified as superstructural. Althusser endeavors to give the 
correlation between superstructure and infrastructure a non-Hegelian cast, 
because the Hegelian mode of thought — one of Aufkebung, overcoming 
contradiction — is still linked to a philosophy of the subject and must be 
itself placed on the side of ideology. Althusser attempts to provide a certain 
content to ideology itself, the assumption being that ideology is not a world 
of shadows but has a reality of its own. It is with this notion of the reality 
of something which is illusory that Althusser's later writings deal. In the 
last lecture we reached the stage where Althusser moves from speaking 
about particular ideologies to a concept of ideology in general. We inter- 
rupted our inquiry following the examination of Althusser's remarks on 
this theme in For Marx; I want to end our inquiry into Althusser by 
considering his later proposals in Lenin and Philosophy. 

Althusser's most advanced attempt to provide an inclusive concept of 
ideology appears in the Lenin and Philosophy essay titled "Ideology and 

Althusser (j) 


Ideological State Apparatuses. " The purpose of this essay, we should recall, 
is to argue that the fundamental function of ideology is reproduction of the 
system, training of individuals in the rules governing the system. To the 
problem of production raised by Marx we must add the problem of repro- 
duction. On the basis of this reconceptualization, we must then reformulate 
the Leninist concept of the state — defined only in terms of coercion — by 
adding the notion of what Althusser calls ideological state apparatuses. 
Ideology is institutionalized and so appears as a dimension of the state. 
There is a dimension of the state which is not merely administrative or 
political but specifically ideological. The superstructure is related to re- 
production through specific institutional apparatuses, and the problem of 
a general theory of ideology is proposed in conjunction with this 

In this text, Althusser goes so far as to ascribe to ideology all positive 
functions which are not science. At the same time, he emphasizes more 
strongly than ever the illusory character of imagination. Here Althusser 
borrows from Spinoza the theme that the first kind of knowledge is merely 
a distorted conception of our relation to the world. He also and more 
importantly borrows from the distinction made by the French psychoan- 
alyst Jacques Lacan between the imaginary and the symbolic. Significantly, 
Althusser drops the notion of the symbolic to retain the notion of the 
imaginary understood on the model of the mirror relationship. The ima- 
ginary is a mirror relation at a narcissistic stage, an image of oneself that 
one has in a physical mirror and also in all the situations of life in which 
one's image is reflected by others. 

In turning to the text, we shall focus particularly on the section of 
Althusser's essay called "On Ideology." Althusser begins by contrasting 
his position to that of Marx in The German Ideology. Here, Althusser 
claims, Marx did not take seriously the paradox of a reality of the imaginary. 

In The German Ideology . . . [ijdeology is conceived as a pure illusion, a pure 
dream, i.e. as nothingness. All its reality is external to it. Ideology is thus thought 
as an imaginary construction whose status is exactly like the theoretical status of 
the dream among writers before Freud. For these writers, the dream was the purely 
imaginary, i.e. null, result of "day's residues," presented in an arbitrary arrange- 
ment and order, sometimes even "inverted," in other words, in "disorder." For 
them the dream was the imaginary, it was empty, null and arbitrarily "stuck 
together" (bricole). (159-60) 

Against this purely negative text Althusser maintains that ideology has a 
reality of its own: the reality of the illusory. This statement seems to 

Althusser (j) 

challenge another assertion of The German Ideology, that ideology has no 
history. (The argument, we remember, was that only economic history 
really exists. This became the framework for all orthodox Marxist ap- 
proaches to history.) Althusser in fact agrees that ideology is nonhistorical 
but in a very different sense than that argued by The German Ideology . 
Ideology is nonhistorical not, as the orthodox approach would have it. 
because its history is external to it but because it is omnihistorical, just like 
Freud's unconscious. Once more the influence of Freud is strongly rein- 
forced. In his essay, "The Unconscious," Freud said that the unconscious 
is timeless (zeitlos), not in the sense that it is supernatural but because it 
is prior to any temporal order or connections, being prior to the level of 
language, of culture, and so on. (An earlier, similar assertion appeared in 
the seventh chapter of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams.) Althusser's 
explicit parallel between ideology and the unconscious draws on this basis 
and takes a step further by rendering timelessness as the eternal : "ideology 
is eternal, exactly like the unconscious" (161). Althusser suggests that in 
the same way that Freud attempted to provide a theory of the unconscious 
in general — as the underlying structure of all the cultural figures of the 
unconscious, which appear at the level of symptoms — similarly, he himself 
proposes a theory of ideology in general that would underlie the particular 

On this basis the imaginary features of ideology must be qualified and 
improved. Here I raise two points. First, what is distorted is not reality as 
such, not the real conditions of existence, but our relation to these condi- 
tions of existence. We are not far from a concept of being-in-the-world ; it 
is our relation to reality which is distorted. "Now I can return to a thesis 
which I have already advanced: it is not their real conditions of existence, 
their real world, that 'men' 'represent to themselves' in ideology, but above 
all it is their relation to those conditions of existence which is represented 
to them there" (164). This leads to a most important insight, because what 
is a relation to the conditions of existence if not already an interpretation, 
something symbolically mediated. To speak of our relation to the world 
requires a symbolic structure. My main argument, therefore, is that if we 
do not have from the start a symbolic structure to our existence, then 
nothing can be distorted. As Althusser himself observes: "it is the imagi- 
nary nature of this relation which underlies all the imaginary distortion 
that we can observe ... in all ideology" (164). We are not far from a 
Complete reversal in our approach to the problem of the imaginary. We 

Althusser (j) 


could not understand that there are distorted images if there were not first 
a primary imaginary structure of our being in the world underlying even 
the distortions. The imaginary appears not only in the distorted forms of 
existence, because it is already present in the relation which is distorted. 
The imaginary is constitutive of our relation to the world. One of my main 
questions, then, is whether this does not imply before the distorting func- 
tion of imagination a constitutive function of imagination. Or, to use the 
language of Lacan, is there not a symbolic role of imagination distinct from 
the narcissistic component of imagination, that is to say, distinct from the 
imaginary taken in the sense of the mirror relationship. 

My second remark is that this relation to our conditions of existence no 
longer falls very easily within the framework of causality. This relation is 
not causal or naturalistic but rather an interplay between motives, between 
symbols; it is a relation of belonging to the whole of our experience and of 
being related to it in a motivational way. Althusser himself hints that this 
relationship destroys the general framework of superstructure and infra- 
structure expressed in terms of causation; he says that here we need "to 
leave aside the language of causality" (164). 

Thus, we must introduce two levels of imagination, one which is the 
distorting, and another which is the distorted and therefore the primary. 

[A]ll ideology represents in its necessarily imaginary distortion not the existing 
relationships of production (and the other relationships that derive from them), 
but above all the (imaginary) relationship of individuals to the relations of produc- 
tion and the relations that derive from them. What is represented in ideology is 
therefore not the system of the real relations which govern the existence of individ- 
uals, but the imaginary relation of those individuals to the real relations in which 
they live. (164—65) 

Expressed more simply, this means that in fact we are never related directly 
to what are called the conditions of existence, classes and so on. These 
conditions must be represented in one way or another; they must have 
their imprint in the motivational field, in our system of images, and so in 
our representation of the world. The so-called real causes never appear as 
such in human existence but always under a symbolic mode. It is this 
symbolic mode which is secondarily distorted. Therefore, the notion of a 
primitive and basic distortion becomes questionable and perhaps com- 
pletely incomprehensible. If everything were distorted, that is the same as 
if nothing were distorted. We must dig in under the notion of distortion. 
In so doing, we rediscover a layer not far finally from what The German 


Althusser (j) 

Ideology described as real life or real individuals placed under certain 
circumstances. Althusser denies this anthropological approach, however 
claiming that it is itself ideological. As a result, this discourse remains en 
I'air, floating without a basis, because we must use the so-called language 
of ideology, the anthropological language, in order to speak of this primi- 
tive, ineluctably symbolically mediated relation to our conditions of 

Perhaps anticipating this difficulty, the text suddenly takes a quite dif- 
ferent approach. Althusser relinquishes the language of representation and 
substitutes for it that of apparatus. He turns away from the questions he 
has just raised to consider the material criteria of ideology. Althusser's 
thesis here is^hat ideology has a material existence. The claim is that while 
no Marxist can say anything that is not ideological concerning the roots of 
distortion in some more imaginary layer, he or she may still speak scien- 
tifically of the ideological apparatus within which the distortion works. 
The only Marxist language about the imaginary bears not upon its onto- 
logical, anthropological rooting but upon its incorporation in the state 
apparatus, in an institution. Therefore, we have a theory about imagination 
as institutionalized but not about imagination as a symbolic structure. 

While discussing the ideological State apparatuses and their practices, I said that 
each of them was the realization of an ideology. ... I now return to this thesis: an 
ideology always exists in an apparatus, and its practice, or practices. This existence 
is material. (166) 

The materialist approach asks in which apparatus does ideology work and 
not how is it possible according to the fundamental structure of human 
being; the latter question belongs to an ideological language. Questions 
about the underlying imaginary — the nondistorted or predistorted imagi- 
nary — must be canceled for the sake of questions about the apparatus. The 
apparatus is a public entity and so no longer implies a reference to individ- 
uals. Althusser talks about individual beliefs as belonging to an "ideological 
'conceptual' device (dispositif)" (167). In French dispositif expresses the 
idea of something which functions by itself, something which shapes 

It is difficult, though, to speak of the practice of a believer, for example, 
merely in terms of an apparatus unless the apparatus is reflected in the 
rules governing the behavior. The ideological device which shapes the 
behavior of the believer — the example is Althusser's (167) — must be such 

Althusser (j) 


that it speaks to the attitudes and therefore to the motives of the individual 
involved. We must link the apparatus with what is meaningful for the 
individual. The apparatus is an anonymous and external entity, however, 
so it is difficult to connect and to have intersect the notion of apparatus 
with the notion of a practice, which is always the practice of someone. It 
is always some individual who is bowing, praying, doing what is supposed 
to be induced in him or her by the apparatus. 

In order not to speak the language of ideology about ideology, Althusser 
must put the notion of practice itself into a behaviorist framework, the 
latter being something more appropriately connected with the Marxist 
concept of apparatus. The language of ideology, says Althusser, "talks of 
actions: I shall talk of action inserted into practices. And I shall point out 
that these practices are governed by the rituals in which these practices are 
inscribed, within the material existence of an ideological apparatus . . ." 
(168). For Althusser the concept of action is too anthropological; practice 
is the more objective term. Finally it is only the material existence of an 
ideological apparatus which makes sense of practice. The apparatus is a 
material framework, within which people do some specific things. 

The behaviorist overtone in Althusser is evident in the following 

I shall therefore say that, where only a single subject ... is concerned, the existence 
of the ideas of his belief is material in that his ideas are his material actions inserted 
into material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined 
by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas of that subject. 

The word "material" is used in four ways: material actions, kneeling, for 
example; material practices, kneeling as religious behavior; material ritu- 
als, kneeling as part of a service of worship; and the material ideological 
apparatus, the church as an institution. Just as Aristotle said that "being" 
has several meanings, so Althusser gives several meanings to matter, a 
comparison he explicitly acknowledges with some humor (166). While 
admitting that the four inscriptions of the word "material" are affected by 
different modalities, though, Althusser provides no rule for their differ- 
entiation. "I shall leave on one side," he says, "the problem of a theory of 
the differences between the modalities of materiality" (169). In fact, then, 
we must qualify our concept of what is material in order to apply it properly 
to something that is not material in the way, for instance, that a chair is. 



We must rely on a polysemy of the word "matter" to make sense of these 
differences, and this is hardly forbidden, because in ordinary language we 
use the word in so many divergent contexts. We rely on a common sense 
concept of matter or on the rules of everyday language, in the Wittgen- 
stemian sense, to extend and stretch the notion of materiality in order that 
it covers the notion of practice. 

The remaining part of Althusser's essay is devoted to the functioning of 
the category of the subject in ideology. Althusser says that the function of 
ideology and of the subject is for each to give content to the other. 

I say: the category of the subject is constitutive of all ideology, but at the same 
time and immediately I add that the category of the subject is only constitutive of 
all ideology insofar as all ideology has the function (which defines it) of "constitut- 
ing" concrete individuals as subjects. (171) 

Althusser puts "constituting" within quotation marks because this is the 
language of Husserl. The phenomenology of the ego falls under the concept 
of ideology to the extent that it defines ideology; ideology is humanism, 
humanism relies on the concept of the subject, and it is ideology which 
constitutes the subject. Ideology and the subject are mutually constitutive. 
Whereas someone like Erik Erikson argues that ideology is a factor of 
identity and so maintains that the relationship between ideology and the 
subject should be taken in a positive sense, the language of Althusser is 
much more negative. We are forced to put on the side of ideology what in 
a sense is the most interesting philosophical problem : how do we become 
subjects? It is a bold attempt to give so much to ideology in order to deny 
it so much also. This is why I have said that if we give too much to science, 
we have to give still more to ideology. It becomes more and more difficult 
to treat ideology merely as a word of illusions, of superstructures, because 
it becomes so constitutive of what we are that what we might be when 
separated from ideology is completely unknown; we are what we are pre- 
cisely thanks to ideology. The burden of ideology is to make subjects of 
us. It is a strange philosophical situation, since all our concrete existence 
is put on the side of ideology. 

Althusser's interesting analysis of what he calls "interpellation" demon- 
strates more specifically the relationship between ideology and the subject. 
"As a first formulation, I shall say: all ideology hails or interpellates con- 
crete individuals as concrete subjects, by the functioning of the category 
of the subject" (173). We are constituted as subjects through a process of 

Althusser (3) 


recognition. The use of the term "interpellation" is an allusion to the 
theological concept of call, of being called by God. In its ability to inter- 
pellate subjects, ideology also constitutes them. To be hailed is to become 
a subject. "The existence of ideology and the hailing or interpellation of 
individuals as subjects are one and the same thing" (175). The idea is that 
ideology is eternal and so does not belong to the history of classes and so 
on, and it acts to constitute and be constituted by the category of the 
subject. The theory of ideology in general rebuilds the framework of a 
complete anthropology, but it does so with a negative cast. This anthro- 
pology is the world of illusion. 

Althusser's claim about the illusory nature of what constitutes us as 
subjects is based on the Lacanian notion of the mirror-structure of the 
imagination. "We observe that the structure of all ideology, interpellating 
individuals as subjects in the name of a Unique and Absolute Subject is 
speculary, i.e. has a mirror-structure, and doubly speculary: this mirror 
duplication is constitutive of ideology and ensures its functioning" (180). 
When emphasis is placed on the primacy of illusion in the symbolic process, 
all ideology must be illusory. Here there is a complete merging of the 
concept of the mirror — the narcissistic structure — with ideology. Ideology 
is established at the level of narcissism, the subject looking at itself indef- 
initely. Althusser takes as an illustrative example religious ideology. He 
says that the function of Christian theology is to reduplicate the subject by 
an absolute subject; they are in a mirror relation. "The dogma of the 
Trinity is precisely the theory of the duplication of the Subject (the Father) 
into a subject (the Son) and of their mirror-connexion (the Holy Spirit)" 
(180 n.). Althusser's treatment here is not a good piece of work; I do not 
think it makes much sense. It is expeditive; Althusser summarizes Trini- 
tarian theology in a footnote. We perhaps could say that the mirror relation 
would be more interesting as an expression of a neurotic way of life. If we 
took, for example, the Schreber case analyzed by Freud, and in particular 
what Freud called Schreber's theology, we would see this reduplicative 
process, there being in fact no god to worship but only a projection and 
reinjection indefinitely of oneself, a projection and assimilation of one's 
own image. 

It is most difficult, therefore, to construct the whole concept of the 
subject on the narrow basis of the narcissistic relation of mirroring. We 
can more easily understand this relation as distortive, the distortion of a 
constitution, but it is difficult to understand it as constitutive itself. The 

Althusser (j) 

only way to maintain that this relation is constitutive — and this is Althus- 
ser's stance — is to argue the radical position that the constitution is the 
distortion, that all constitution of a subject is a distortion. If ideology j s 
eternal, though, if there are always already interpellated individuals as 
subjects, if the formal structure of ideology is continuingly the same, then 
what happens to the epistemological break? The problem of the episte- 
mological break has to be removed from the sphere of particular ideologies 
to that of ideology in general. The break with religious ideology, with 
humanism, and so on is nothing compared to the break with this mutual 
constitution of primary ideology and subjectivity. I would agree that a 
break must occur, but not where Althusser places it. Instead, we may break 
and we have to break with the "miscognition" (meconnaissance) that ad- 
heres to recognition (reconnaissance). What point would there be in a 
critique of miscognition if it were not for the sake of a more faithful 
recognition? We must make sense of true recognition in a way that does 
not reduce it to ideology, in the narrow and pejorative sense of that term. 
Althusser, however, rejects this possibility. He talks of "the reality which 
is necessarily ignored (meconnue) [so "miscognized," not ignored] in the 
very forms of recognition . . ." (182). All recognition is miscognition; it is 
a very pessimistic assertion. If ideology must have no value in itself, then 
it must be the world of miscognition, meconnaissance. The whole dialectic 
of recognition is broken by Althusser's ideological reduction of the prob- 
lematic of the subject. 

Instead of there being a relation of recognition, Althusser correlates the 
mirror relation with a relation of subsumption. "There are no subjects 
except by and for their subjection" (182), he says. Althusser uses the play 
on words to indicate that the subject means both subjectivity and subjec- 
tion. The two meanings are in fact reduced to one: to be a subject means 
to be submitted to. Yet is there not a history of the individual's growth 
beyond the "speculary" stage? What about the dialectic of the speculary 
and the symbolic within imagination itself? For Althusser, however, to be 
a subject means to be subjected, to be submitted to an apparatus, the 
ideological apparatus of the state. To my mind, if ideology must be tied to 
the mirror stage of the imagination, to the submitted subject, I do not see 
how it would ever be possible to have as citizens authentic subjects who 
could resist the apparatus of the state. I do not see from where we could 
borrow the forces to resist the apparatus if not from the depths of a subject 
having claims that are not infected by this supposed submissive constitu- 

Althusser (j) 

tion. How else will someone produce a break in the seemingly closed shell 
of ideology? 

The task, then, is to disentangle recognition (reconnaissance) from 
miscognition (meconnaissance). I shall later connect my analysis of Ha- 
bermas precisely at this point. The problematic for Habermas is the need 
to start from a project of recognition. Ideology is troublesome because it 
makes impossible the true recognition of one human being by another. 
Further, if this situation is placed entirely on the side of ideology, then no 
weapons exist against ideology, because the weapons themselves are ideo- 
logical. Therefore, we need a concept of recognition, what Habermas' more 
recent work speaks of as a concept of communication. We need a Utopia of 
total recognition, of total communication, communication without bound- 
aries or obstacles. This supposes that we have an interest in communication 
which is not, we might say, ideology-stricken from the beginning. In order 
to connect, as does Habermas, the critique of ideology to an interest in 
liberation, we must have a concept of recognition, a concept of the mutual 
task of communication, that is not ideological in the distortive sense of that 

Before we reach our examination of Habermas, however, we shall spend 
some time discussing Mannheim and Weber, and we have some final 
questions of Althusser as well. To prepare for the transit from Althusser, 
I would like to present a general framework of the questions arising from 
our readings of his work. I shall consider five main problems. First is the 
question of the scientific claim of Marxism: in what sense is it a science? 
While Althusser speaks in some more recent writings of the discovery of a 
continent, the continent of history, even here the subject matter is to be 
raised to the level of a systematic science. The focus of this history is not 
empirical historiography but the systematic concatenation of stages in the 
development of economic relationships (from primitive communism to 
feudalism to capitalism and so forth). If we speak of science in a positivist 
sense, then a theory must be submitted to verification and therefore to the 
whole community of, we might say, intellectual workers. It is hard, though, 
to identify this science with the science of a class. To put the notion of 
scientific verification within the framework of class struggle introduces a 
practical concept within the theoretical framework. My question, then, is 
in what sense can Marxism be a science if it is not verifiable or falsifiable 
in the Popperian sense? Perhaps it can be scientific in another fashion, 
that of a critique. But what motivates a critique if not an interest, an 

Mthusser (j) 

interest in emancipation, an interest in liberation, something which p u ]] s 
a critique necessarily into the ideological sphere? It is quite difficult to 
think of a nonpositivist science that is not supported by a human interest, 
a practical interest. It is also difficult to think of a science that is not 
understandable for all, even for members of other classes. As we shall 
discover, the problem of Mannheim's paradox in fact starts from the 
generalization of the concept of ideology at the point where ideological 
analysis is raised to the level of a science, that of the sociology of knowledge. 

Our second problem, a corollary of the first, concerns the notion of the 
epistemological break. Is a complete break understandable without some 
kind of intellectual miracle, a sense of someone emerging from the dark? 
In AlthusserVmore recent Essays in Self-Criticism, even while subjecting 
himself to reproach (saying that he has been too theoretical and needs to 
return to the class struggle in a more militant way), he still reinforces his 
concept of the epistemological break. He says that it is an unprecedented 
event. Althusser even speaks of Marx as a son without a father, a kind of 
absolute orphan. He argues that it is the idealists who are always seeking 
continuity. Possibly a certain providentialism does imply continuity, but 
I do not know why historical continuity alone should be considered nec- 
essarily ideological and, perhaps, even theological. The concept of discon- 
tinuity gives rise to difficulty itself. It does so principally if we consider, 
once more, the motivation of this break. The epistemological break appears 
to be motivated, and if we want to connect this break to the emergence of 
a certain interest, then we have to borrow this motivation from the ideo- 
logical sphere. The motivation belongs to the anthropological sphere, to 
the interest in being more fully human. We cannot completely separate the 
idea of the break from a certain human project which is to be improved, 
possibly even disclosed, by this science. 

For my part Althusser's representation of the epistemological break does 
great damage not only to the theory of ideology but to the reading of Marx. 
It causes us to overlook an important break in Marx; it causes us to place 
the break at a different point from where it should be. Though I am not a 
Marxist scholar, my reading of Marx reinforces a conviction that the more 
important change at the philosophical level comes not after The German 
Ideology but between the Manuscripts of 1844 and The German Ideology, 
that is to say, in the emergence of the concept of the real human being, 
real praxis, individuals acting in certain given conditions. Seen in this light, 
the destiny of anthropology is not sealed by that of idealism. The great 

Althusser (j) 


damage done to Marx by Althusser is that he forces us to put under one 
heading — anthropological ideology — two different notions. The first is an 
ideology of consciousness, which Marx and Freud have rightly broken. 
The second, though, is the ideology of real, concrete, human being, a 
being composed of drives, labor, and so on. This latter notion, I believe, 
can be expressed in nonidealist terms. Ideology and idealism, therefore, 
are not identified in such a way that no place any longer exists for an 
anthropology. For me, a nonidealistic anthropology is the only way to make 
sense of all the other problems thaf we shall consider during the rest of the 
lectures. Marx's breakthrough must make sense at the level of this deep- 
rooted interest in the plenitude of indvidual existence. 

The issues here lead us to a third question arising from our reading of 
Althusser, the problem of his conceptual framework. The conceptual 
framework of infrastructure and superstructure is a metaphor of a base 
with stories, an edifice with a base. This metaphor is quite seducing at first 
sight, but it becomes very dangerous when taken literally to mean some- 
thing prior to something secondary or derived. One of the signs that this 
metaphor is misleading when frozen and taken literally is the difficulty of 
reconnecting the action of the basis and the reaction back on the basis by 
the superstructure. We are caught in a scholasticism of determinant factors 
and real but nondeterminant factors. This scholasticism, I believe, leads 
nowhere, but the metaphor is harmful for even more important reasons. 
It is not that the metaphor creates paradoxes, for all doctrines in fact 
proceed by solving their own paradoxes. Rather, the conceptual framework 
here prevents us from making sense of some very interesting contributions 
of Althusser himself to Marxist doctrine. In particular I think of the concept 
of overdetermination, that is, recognition of the simultaneous action of 
infrastructure and superstructure, the fact that in history the basis never 
acts alone but is always intertwined with actions, specific historical events, 
and so on. I wonder whether we could not make more sense of the concept 
of overdetermination if we placed it in another conceptual framework than 
that of infrastructure and superstructure. This might cause us, in fact, to 
reconsider what finally is really the basis. 

If we raise this radical question about what is basic for human beings, 
we may come to realize that a great deal of what is placed in the superstruc- 
ture is basic from another point of view. Take into consideration any 
culture, and we find that its symbolic framework — its main assumptions, 
the way in which it considers itself and projects its identity through symbols 


Althusser (j) 

and myths — is basic. It seems that we can call basic exactly what is usually 
called the superstructure. The possibility of this juxtaposition is always 
present with a metaphor. We must destroy a metaphor by the use of a 
contrary metaphor; we therefore proceed from metaphor to metaphor. The 
opposing metaphor here is the notion of what is basic for human beings : 
what is basic for human beings is not necessarily what is the basis in Marxist 
structure. Indeed, I wonder whether the notion of overdetermination does 
not imply that we must in fact give up the distinction between infrastructure 
and superstructure. 

This point is made even more evident when we realize that the very 
action of the superstructure implies some intermediary concepts which 
break the infrastructure/superstructure framework. Once again let me refer 
to the concept of authority. A system of authority never works only by 
force, by sheer violence; instead, as we have discussed, it works through 
ideology, through some meaningful procedures. These procedures call for 
the comprehension of individuals. Althusser's schema of "ef fectivity" must 
be improved or perhaps completely recast in order to make room for the 
claim to legitimacy, which is characteristic of a ruling authority whether a 
group or class. I shall later turn to Max Weber to deal with this problem 
further, because his fundamental problem was how does a system of au- 
thority work. For Weber the problem of domination implied a system of 
motives wherein the claims to legitimacy of an authority attempt to meet 
the capacity of belief in this legitimacy. We are forced to deal, therefore, 
with beliefs and claims, and it is difficult to put these psychological factors 
within a framework of infrastructure and superstructure. 

Another reason we should question this conceptual framework is if we 
want to make sense of another of Althusser's claims, that ideologies have a 
reality of their own. I think that Althusser is right to assert the relative 
autonomy and self-consistency of ideologies; in this he opposes the classical 
Marxists, with the possible exception of the Italians, Gramsci above all. 
The relative autonomy of the superstructure, though, requires that ideol- 
ogies have a content of their own. In turn, this requires before an under- 
standing of these ideologies' use a phenomenology of their specific mode. 
We cannot define these ideologies' structure only by their role in the 
reproduction of the system. We must make sense of their meaning before 
considering their use. The assumption that ideologies' content is exhausted 
by their use is without justification; their use does not exhaust their mean- 
ing. We can take as an example the problem raised by Habermas, that in 

Althusser (j) 


modern societies — and particularly in the military-industrial structure of 
the capitalist world — science and technology function ideologically. This 
does not mean that they are constitutively ideological but rather that they 
are being used ideologically. The present capture of science and technology 
by a certain interest — in Habermas' terms, an interest in control — is not 
constitutive of the inner meaning of their field. We must distinguish be- 
tween the inner constitution of a given ideological field (granting, for the 
moment, that we still want to call it an ideology) and its function. The 
problem of distortion does not exhaust the constitution of a certain socio- 
logical force or structure. 

As an example here, we may return to Lenin's definition of the state. In 
determining that the state is defined only by its coercive funciton, Lenin 
neglected its many other functions ; he did not see that the coercive function 
is a distortion of these other functions. Lenin's approach, however, typifies 
the orthodox Marxist model. Religion is said to have no other constitution 
than its distorting function, and some now say the same of science and 
technology. Again I wonder, though, is not the only way to give meaning 
to the relative autonomy of the superstructural spheres to distinguish 
between the rules of their constitution and the distortive modes of their 
use? If we cannot make this distinction, then we have to say that the 
procedure of unmasking is constitutive of its object. The content of an 
ideology becomes uniquely what we have unmasked and nothing more than 
that, a very reductive procedure. 

The failure to recognize the specificity of each superstructural sphere — 
the juridical, political, religious, cultural — has not only dangerous theo- 
retical consequences but dangerous practical and political consequences 
also. Once it is assumed that these spheres have no autonomy, then the 
Stalinist state is possible. The argument is that since the economic basis is 
sound and since all the other spheres are merely reflexes, shadows, or 
echoes, then we are allowed to manipulate the latter spheres in order to 
improve the economic basis. There is no respect for the autonomy of the 
juridical, the political, or the religious, because they are said to have no 
existence in themselves. 

Do we not want, then, a quite different theoretical framework in which 
the process of distortion would have as its condition of possibility a con- 
stitution which would not be defined by the distorting function? This 
would entail that the juridical sphere, for example, retain a certain consti- 
tutive specificity even though it may be true that is has been captured by 



the bourgeoisie for the latter's benefit. If we take the relation between work 
and capital expressed in the notion of the wage, the wage is presented as a 
contract, and the contract is represented as a juridical act. The juridical 
form of the exchange suggests no one is a slave, since people hire out. their 
work and receive a wage in return. This is clearly a grave distortion, because 
the juridical concept of contract is applied to a situation of domination. 
Here the real situation of exploitation is concealed in an exchange of work 
and salary that is only apparently reciprocal. My claim is that while the 
juridical function is greatly harmed by the way this juridical framework in 
the capitalist system serves to conceal the real structure of exploitation, it 
is not exhausted, as the orthodox Marxists maintain, by this distortive 
function. I jnsist on the possibility of disconnecting and reconnecting the 
distortive and constitutive functions; this presupposes, once again, a mo- 
tivational framework. 

The fourth problem arising from our reading is that of particular ideol- 
ogies. We may start here from the previous problem and ask what makes 
these particular ideologies specific. Let us take the example of humanism. 
In the United States the argument for humanism may be too easy, because 
humanism is a positive term, which is not always the case in Europe. We 
must reconsider the concept of humanism in order to disentangle what 
about it is ideological in the bad sense of that word, that is, a mere way to 
cover up real situations. We must look for a strong concept of humanism, 
which would not be ideological in a pejorative sense. Here I think that a 
theory of the system of interests, like Habermas', could help to show that 
there exists a hierarchy of interests that is not reducible to the mere interest 
in domination or control. This would imply construction of a complete 
anthropology and not a mere assertion of humanism, the latter beingmerely 
a claim if not a pretense. This strong concept of humanism must be linked 
to three or four other concepts within the same conceptual framework. 
First is the concept of the real individual under definite conditions, which 
has been elaborated in The German Ideology. This notion provides a strong 
philosophical basis for a humanism that would not be merely a claim. A 
strong concept of humanism is implied, second, in the entire problematics 
of legitimacy, because of the individual's relation to a system of order and 
domination. Perhaps here is the individual's major fight to achieve his or 
her identity over against a structure of authority. We need to stress, then, 
the important dialectic between individual and authority within the polarity 
between belief and claim. Third, I would say that the epistemological break 

Althusser (3) 


relies on the emergence of this humanistic interest. We can make no sense 
of the sudden outburst of truth in the midst of obscurity and darkness if it 
is not the emergence of something which was distorted in ideology but now 
finds its truth. In a sense, the break must be also at the same time a recovery 
of what was covered up by ideology. I wonder whether a notion of radical 
break can be thought. 

The fifth and final problem to arise from our reading is that of ideology 
in general. This raises the most radical question: what is distorted if not 
praxis as something symbolically mediated? The discourse on distortion is 
itself neither ideological nor scientific but anthropological. 1 This is in 
agreement with all the previous suggestions concerning a philosophical 
anthropology that includes motives and symbols. The parallelism between 
the discourse on ideology in general and Freud's discourse on the uncon- 
scious in general reinforces the argument. Thus, we must have a theory of 
symbolic action. Recourse to the material existence of ideology does not 
suffice, for how can an imaginary relation be an apparatus? The functioning 
of the category of the subject in ideology becomes a warrant for ideology. 
We cannot speak of miscognition (meconnaissance) without the back- 
ground of recognition (reconnaissance), a background that is not ideolog- 
ical but anthropological. 

These central issues, derived from our reading of Althusser, provide the 
main directions in which the remaining lectures shall proceed. I shall 
propose to advance in four steps. First, we shall turn to Karl Mannheim. 
Mannheim asks whether a complete break between ideology and science is 
possible. Are not in fact all theoretical claims in some sense ideological? If 
so, Mannheim points out, then generalization of the concept of ideology 
leads to a paradox. If everything is ideological, then how is it possible to 
have other than an ideological discourse on ideology? This is Mannheim's 
paradox. I shall then consider the problem of domination in another frame- 
work of thought than that of superstructure and infrastructure, one con- 
sidering the legitimation of a system of authority, and I shall introduce 
Max Weber for that purpose. We shall ask how in a motivational framework 
there are conflicts about power. The third step will be to raise the connec- 
tion between interests and science, more specifically, a critical science 
carried out and supported by an interest. Here I shall use Habermas. 
Finally, I shall consider the fundamental symbolic structure of action as 
itself the precondition for any kind of distortion. At this point I shall turn 
to Clifford Geertz and to some of my own personal approaches to this 


Althusser (j) 

problem. I shall attempt to show that it is the structure of symbolic action 
which is distorted by ideology, in the more narrow sense of this term. 
When reappropriated in a broader sense, one that gives full weight to the 
structure of symbolic action, we shall see that ideology — a primitive, 
positive ideology — acts for both groups and individuals as the constitution 
of their identity. This will be the turning point to the problem of Utopia, 
since at this level it is the imagination which is both ideological and Utopian. 



Our discussion of Karl Mannheim's Ideology and Utopia concentrates on 
the two chapters entitled "Ideology and Utopia" and "The Utopian Men- 
tality." Mannheim is of interest for our purposes for two major reasons. 
First, he was perhaps the initial person to link ideology and Utopia together 
under the general problematic of noncongruence. He observed that there 
are two ways in which a system of thought may be noncongruent with the 
general trend of a group or society: either by sticking to the past, thus a 
certain resistance to change, or by leaping ahead, and thus a type of 
encouragement of change. In some sense a polarity exists, therefore, be- 
tween the two modalities of discrepancy. I shall reserve our major discus- 
sion of Mannheim's correlation between ideology and Utopia for the final 
stages of the lectures as a whole, but want to make a few anticipatory 
remarks on this topic at the end of the present lecture. 

Mannheim's second merit, which is no less great, is that he tried to 
enlarge the Marxist concept of ideology to the point where it becomes a 
perplexing concept, because it includes the one who asserts it. Mannheim 
pushes quite far the notion of the author's self-involvement in his or her 
own concept of ideology. This interplay leads to what has been called 
Mannheim's paradox. The paradox is similar in form to Zeno's paradox 
about movement; both strike at the foundations of knowledge. Mannheim 
pushes the concept and the critique of ideology to the point where the 
concept becomes self-defeating, a stage reached when the concept is ex- 
tended and universalized such that it involves anyone who claims its use. 
Mannheim's argument is that this condition of universalization is one in 
which we are now unavoidably caught. To put it in the language of Clifford 
Geertz, ideology has become a part of its own referent (The Interpretation 



of Cultures, p. 194). We speak about ideology, but our speech is itself 
caught up in ideology. My own claim is that we must struggle with this 
paradox in order to proceed any further. To formulate and assume this 
paradox will be the turning point of our entire study, and it will compel 
u» to look for a better description of ideology itself. We must question 
whether the polarity between ideology and science can be maintained or 
whether another perspective must instead be substituted. 

In discussing Mannheim's contribution to this topic, we shall consider 
three points: first, the process of generalization which generates the para- 
dox; second, the transfer of the paradox into the field of the sociology of 
knowledge; and third, Mannheim's attempt to overcome the paradox at 
this level. Aj> to the first point, when we view the historical development 
of ideology as a theme, the Marxist concept of the term appears as only 
one stage in the process of generalization. Says Mannheim: "It is therefore 
first necessary to state that although Marxism contributed a great deal to 
the original statement of the problem, both the word and its meaning g 0 
farther back in history than Marxism, and ever since its time new meanings 
of the word have emerged, which have taken shape independently of it" 
(55). Mannheim maintains that there is a long history of the suspicion of 
false consciousness and that Marxism is only a link in this long chain. 
Following Mannheim, we shall discuss the developing historical status of 
the problem of ideology before considering his own contribution. , 

Mannheim takes the problem of false consciousness so far back histor- 
ically as to invoke the Old Testament concept of the false prophet (the 
prophet Baal and so on). The religious origin of suspicion arises in the 
question of who is the true and who the false prophet. For Mannheim, this 
was the first problematic of ideology in our culture (70) . In modem culture , 
Mannheim cites principally Bacon and Machiavelli as forerunners of the 
conception of ideology. In Bacon's theory of idols, the idols of the tribe, 
cave, market, and theater were all sources of error (61). Machiavelli started 
the process of systematic suspicion toward public utterances in contrasting 
the thought of the palace and that of the public square (63). I also think 
of the sixth chapter of Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit, where Hegel 
discusses the language of flattery and the language of the court, the distor- 
tions of language for political use. Surely the Enlightenment concepts of 
superstition and prejudice are also an important link in this chain. 

I would also insist, as does Mannheim (71 ff.), on the role of Napoleon 
in these pre-Marxist stages. More and more I think that Napoleon's role is 



important factor. It is sometimes forgotten that French philosophers at 
the end of the eighteenth century were called ideologues. Ideologie was the 
name for their theory of ideas. Ideologie was the name for both a school of 
thought and a theoretical domain. Napoleon created the derogatory mean- 
ing of tne term > labeling these adversaries to his political ambitions ideol- 
ogists in a defamatory sense. Perhaps it is part of the concept now that it 
is defamatory and something expressed, finally, by the hero of action. The 
hero of action labels as ideological a mode of thought that claims only to 
be a theory of ideas; the theory is 4 said to be unrealistic with reference to 
political practice. Ideology is first a polemical concept and second a concept 
which disparages the adversary, and it undertakes this disparagement from 
the point of view of the hero of action looking at, to use Hegel's expression, 
the "beautiful soul." 

Thus, the concept of ideology in philosophical discourse perhaps always 
includes the specific experience of the politician with reality. Though 
alerting us to this situation, Mannheim does not pursue it himself, since 
his own outlook is that of the sociology of knowledge, the point of view of 
the onlooker or observer. Nevertheless, it is most important that we be 
aware that a "political criterion of reality" (73) is introduced into the 
discussion of ideology. I do not make this observation in order to conclude 
that we can make no use of the concept of ideology but rather to locate it. 
There is room in philosophic discourse for polemical concepts and for 
concepts which proceed from a certain stratum — here the political stra- 
tum-of human experience. In this regard, I think that it is stronger to take 
this stance than to say with Althusser that theory — science — provides the 
concept of ideology. No, the concept is provided by a practical experience, 
in particular, the experience of the ruler. Perhaps when we denounce 
something as ideological, we are ourselves caught in a certain process of 
power, a claim to power, a claim to be powerful. Because of ideology's 
origin in the disparaging labeling used by Napoleon against his adversaries, 
we must keep in mind the possibility that it is never a purely descriptive 
concept. I remember, for instance, the accusations made against critics by 
those in power when France lost Algeria and when the United States lost 

What is specific to Marx's contribution to the development of the concept 
of ideology, says Mannheim, is that he fused a more comprehensive con- 
ception to the existing psychological orientation toward the term (74). No 
longer is ideology only a psychological phenomenon concerning individu- 


als, a distortion either merely a lie, in a moral sense, or an error, in an 
epistemological sense. Instead, an ideology is the total structure of the 
mind characteristic of a concrete historical formation, including a class 
An ideology is total in the sense that it expresses an opponent's basic 
Weltanschauung, including his or her conceptual apparatus. This, f or 
Marx, was ideology's essential aspect. To express the psychological and 
comprehensive approaches to ideology, Mannheim resorts to the unfortun- 
ate vocabulary of "particular" and "total" conceptions (see 55 ff .), and this 
has created many misunderstandings. What he means is not so much that 
one approach is particular, but that it is located in the individual. It is 
particular in the sense that it is particular to the individual. The total 
conception, the other hand, includes a whole world view and is sup- 
ported by a collective structure. 

Marx's second contribution, Mannheim claims, is that he saw that if 
ideology is not merely a psychological phenomenon — an individual distor- 
tion — then to unmask it requires a specific method of analysis: an inter- 
pretation in terms of the life-situation of the one who expresses it. This 
indirect method is typical of the critique of ideology. Mannheim's conten- 
tion, though, is that this discovery has escaped, has exploded the Marxist 
framework, because suspicion is now applied not to one specific group or 
class but to the entire theoretical frame of reference in a chain reaction that 
cannot be stopped. For me, the dramatic honesty of Mannheim lies in his 
courage to face this challenge, a challenge which is not complete even when 
we have a "total" conception of ideology, that is, one encompassing the 
intellectual foundations upon which rest the specific beliefs of one's op- 
ponent. What forces us to push the process beyond Marx's fusion of 
particular and total is essentially the collapse of a common criterion of 
validity. In a situation of intellectual collapse, we are caught in a reciprocal 
process of suspicion. 

In fact this predicament is the main intuition lying behind Mannheim's 
book. There are no common criteria of validity in our culture. It is as if 
we belong to a spiritual world with fundamentally divergent thought sys- 
tems. Mannheim has many strong expressions of this crisis. He speaks of 
"the intellectual twilight which dominates our epoch" (85). "[T]he unan- 
imity is broken" (103). We are in a process of "inevitable disintegration" 
(103). "Only this socially disorganized intellectual situation makes possible 
the insight, hidden until now by a generally stable social structure and the 
practicability of certain traditional norms, that every point of view is 



particular to a social situation" (84-85; emphasis added). This process of 
generalization goes much further than a mere theory of interests, which 
remains psychological in its core and still belongs to the "particular" mean- 
ing of ideology. It is not so much that we have opposing interests, but that 
we have no longer the same presuppositions with which to grasp reality. 
The problem is not an economic phenomenon, it is not because there is 
class struggle, but because our spiritual unity has been broken. 

The problem is raised, then, at the level of the spiritual and intellectual 
framework of thought, that which makes possible our grasping of reality. 
Thus, the post-Marxist concept of 'ideology expresses a crisis occurring at 
the level of the spirit itself. This post-Marxist concept is mature when we 
acknowledge that "the objective ontological unity of the world" has col- 
lapsed (66). We live spiritually in a polemical situation of conflicting world 
views which are, for one another, ideologies. We face a process of mutual 
labeling; an ideology is always the ideology of the other. There is an other 
here, though, when there are only others. I am an other among others 
when there is no longer a common ground. We must recognize that these 
differences are not merely "particular" — individual — but a "grasp in its 
totality [of] the structure of the intellectual world" (58). We are no longer 
dwellers of the same world. "This profound disintegration of intellectual 
unity is possible only when the basic values of the contending groups are 
worlds apart" (65). The word "basic" is applied to values and not to 
economic entities. A certain spiritual disease is the starting point. 

Mannheim calls this conception of ideology post-Marxist because we can 
no longer assume, he says, that there is a class consciousness which is not 
ideological itself, as was the claim of Marx and Lukacs. I regret not having 
had time to speak of Lukacs, because Lukacs tried to save the concept of 
class consciousness by resortingto the Hegelian concept of totality. Lukacs 
spoke of the proletariat as a universal class, because it expresses a universal 
interest; its world view is the only one not ideological, because it is the 
only one able to assume the interests of the totality. For Mannheim, 
however, the process of disintegration has proceeded so far that all class 
consciousnesses are caught in the destructive process of collapse. There is 
a lack of a center in the evolution of human society. Because there is no 
true universality anywhere, no group may claim to be the bearer of uni- 
versality. No passage in the book states this position explicitly ; rather, it 
is a question of omission. The notion of a class that would be the bearer 
of a universal consciousness, and so overcome relativism, is absent; it is 



silently denied. Instead, Mannheim lists class ideology among other modes 
of historical relativity — historic periods, nations, and so on — and does so 
without assigning to one kind of class a function that would exempt it from 
the process. This tacit skepticism concerning the concept of class con- 
sciousness is a decisive component in Ideology and Utopia, and surely it is 
on this point that Marxists would reject the book. For Mannheim, we are 
now too far from the classical Marxist conception. Marxism does not 
provide a new center. It is one part of the picture and a stage in the 
disintegrative process. The disintegrative process has swallowed class con- 
sciousness. False consciousness is no longer a Marxist question but a 
question which Marxism has made more acute. Marxism is unable to stop 
the process which it has advanced because its insight into the socioeconomic 
origin of intellectual frameworks is a weapon that cannot in the long run 
remain the exclusive privilege of one class. 

On the merit of Marxism as an acceleration — though not the generation 
or closure — of the process, Mannheim has several important texts. "It was 
Marxist theory which first achieved a fusion of the particular and total 
conceptions of ideology." A particular conception, we remember, is a local 
error, while a total conception occurs when ideology is conceived not as 
one doctrine among others but as the whole conceptual structure itself. 
Mannheim continues : 

It was this theory which first gave due emphasis to the role of class position and 
class interests in thought. Due largely to the fact that it originated in Hegelianism, 
Marxism was able to go beyond the mere psychological level of analysis and to posit 
the problem in a more comprehensive, philosophical setting. The notion of a "false 
consciousness" hereby acquired a new meaning. (74) 

I do not know the exact history of the expression "false consciousness," 
but it seems that Mannheim borrowed it from Lukacs. I do not think that 
the term is in Marx himself, but I am not sure. Mannheim ascribes to 
Marxism not only the generalization of the concept of ideology, in the 
sense that what is affected is a world view, but the conjunction of two 
criteria, a theoretical criterion — the critique of illusions — and a practical 
criterion — the fight of one class against another. Here we reintroduce the 
origins of the concept in Napoleon. It is the point of view of the man or 
woman of action. Thus, we may recall, it is important in the discussion of 
Althusser to see that in his Essays in Self-Criticism he can accuse himself 
of being too theoretical if he severs the Marxist concept from a certain 



position in the ciass struggle. Marxism does not provide a theoretical 
concept of ideology but a theoretico-practical concept. Mannheim says: 

Marxist thought attached such decisive significance to political practice conjointly 
with the economic interpretation of events, that these two became the ultimate 
criteria for disentangling what is mere ideology from those elements in thought 
which are more immediately relevant to reality. Consequently it is no wonder that 
the conception of ideology is usually regarded as integral to, and even identified 
with, the Marxist proletarian movement. (75) 

This is a most important statement. To call something ideological is never 
merely a theoretical judgment, but rather implies a certain practice and a 
view on reality that this practice gives to us. The characterization derives 
from a point of view, a certain movement, not so much that of class 
consciousness as the praxis of a certain political movement. Ideology is a 
political concept in that sense. Mannheim's most important text on Marx- 
ism follows the paragraph just quoted : 

But in the course of more recent intellectual and social developments . . . this 
stage [that is, the Marxist concept of ideology] has already been passed. It is no 
longer the exclusive privilege of socialist thinkers to trace bourgeois thought to 
ideological foundations and thereby to discredit it. Nowadays groups of every 
standpoint use this weapon against all the rest. As a result we are entering upon a 
new epoch in social and intellectual development. (75) 

This is a good summary of Mannheim's position both about what we owe 
to Marxism and about why we must go further and so find ourselves 
engulfed in this pervasively ideological process. The merit of Marxism is 
unique, but its concept of ideology has been superseded by the very process 
of ideology's expansion and diffusion that it has hastened. 

Now I shall try to show how Mannheim attempted to master this paradox 
and to escape its circularity, the destructive recurrent effects of ideological 
denunciation, a kind of machine infernale, infernal machine. It is necessary 
first to say something about the frame of reference within which Mannheim 
deals with this paradox. The framework is a sociology of knowledge. 
Mannheim was one of those like Max Scheler who thought that a sociology 
of knowledge could overcome the paradoxes of action and in fact play the 
role of a Hegelian system, if in a more empirical way. The idea is that if 
we can create a survey and exact description of all the forces in society, 
then we will be able to locate every ideology in its right place. Understand- 
ing the whole saves us from the implications of the concept. Perhaps here 
is the failure of Mannheim, because this sociology of knowledge never 



really succeeded in becoming a science and achieving its full development. 
The liabilities of the sociology of knowledge may be even more fundamental 
than that, however. It requires that the position of the sociologist be a kind 
of null point, a zero degree point; the sociologist does not belong to the 
play but is rather an observer and therefore has no place in the picture. 
This stance is paradoxical, though, because how can it be possible to look 
on the whole process if everything is in the process of mutual accusation ? 
I consider Mannheim's attempt to overcome this paradox one of the most 
honest and perhaps the most honest failure in theory. The problematic 
here is a battlefield with many dead on it, and Mannheim is the most noble 
of them all. Mannheim's intention is that the sociology of knowledge must 
overcome the>theory of ideology to the extent that this theory is caught in 
the circularity of its argument. Let us turn to how he proceeds. 

At the beginning of this discussion, Mannheim seems to claim for himsel f 
a nonevaluative standpoint. "With the emergence of the general formula- 
tion of the total conception of ideology, the simple theory of ideology 
develops into the sociology of knowledge" (77-78). What had been the 
weapon of a party is transformed into a method of research, and the 
sociologist is the absolute observer who undertakes this research. The 
impossibility of the absolute observer, however, becomes the strain of the 
argument. The recourse to a nonevaluative judgment attempts to duplicate 
the approach of earlier German sociologists, especially Max Weber, re- 
garding the possibility of value-free judgments. "The task of a study of 
ideology, which tries to be free from value-judgments, is to understand the 
narrowness of each individual point of view and the interplay between 
these distinctive attitudes in the total social process" (81). The sociologist 
looks at the map of ideologies and observes that each ideology is narrow, 
each represents a certain form of experience. The sociologist's judgment 
is value-free because it is said to make no use of norms belonging to one of 
these systems. This is the problem, of course, because to judge is to use a 
system of norms, and each system of norms is in some sense ideological. 
In any event, in this first stage of the investigation of a field, the sociologist 
notes the presence of this ideology, that ideology, and so on, and does not 
go further than stating correlations between thoughts and situations. The 
process is one of enumeration and correlation. 

This nonevaluative stage must be traversed, it must be assumed to a 
certain degree, because unmasking the social conditions of all norms laying 
claim to formal validity represents the intellectual honesty of the modern 



intellectual. We have here in Mannheim the notion of the German scientist 
and his or her intellectual integrity, what Nietzsche has denned precisely 
as intellectual honesty, the famous Redlichkeit. 1 Therefore the noneval- 
uative must be assumed as a first stage. Mannheim «ays: "in all of these 
investigations use will be made of the total and general conception of 
ideology in its nonevaluative sense" (83). A total conception refers not 
simply to this idea and that idea, but to a whole framework of thought; 
the conception is general because it involves everyone, including oneself. 
The nonevaluative is a skeptical moment, the stage at which we look at 
things. Mannheim also maintains, dramatically, that the nonevaluative 
claim implies that the concept of truth must be dropped, at least in its 
atemporal sense (84). Our intellectual honesty, our skeptical Redlichkeit, 
entails the loss of the concept of truth that was supposed to rule the 
conceptual process itself. The problem will be to recover another concept 
of truth that is more historical, no longer an atemporal judgment about 
reality but one congruent with the spirit of the times or harmonious with 
the stage of history. 

Mannheim's attempt to develop a nonevaluative concept of ideology 
situates his well-known distinction between relationism and relativism. 
This distinction did not in fact make the breakthrough that Mannheim 
thought it would, but was his own desperate attempt to prove that he was 
not a relativist. 

This first non-evaluative insight into history does not inevitably lead to relativism, 
but rather to relationism. Knowledge, as seen in the light of the total conception 
of ideology, is by no means an illusory experience, for ideology in its relational 
concept is not at all identical with illusion. . . . Relationism signifies merely that 
all of the elements of meaning in a given situation have reference to one another 
and derive their significance from this reciprocal interrelationship in a given frame 
of thought. (85-86) 

Mannheim's attempt is to say that if we can see how systems of thought 
are related to social strata, and if we can also correlate the relations between 
different groups in competition, between situation and situation, system 
of thought and system of thought, then the whole picture is no longer 
relativist but relationist. To be a relativist, he says, is to keep an old, 
atemporal model of truth. If we have given up this model of truth, though, 
then we are directed toward a new concept of truth which is the sense of 
the correlation of changes that are in mutual relationship. This desperate 
attempt is in fact a reconstruction of the Hegelian Spirit in an empirical 



system. (This often occurred in German, a hidden return of Hegelianism 
under neo- Kantian cover.) The claim to have a total system of relationships 
is precisely the Hegelian system. The Hegelian system made sense, at least 
for Hegel, because he presumed the existence of something like Absolute 
Knowledge. The sociologist of knowledge repeats the claim of absolute 
knowledge but in an empirical situation, where perhaps if anyplace it i s 
impossible. The sociologist assumes the role of the Hegelian Geist. 

What, according to Mannheim, is then the new kind of truth that may 
emerge? We may take the first steps toward this new path when we rec- 
ognize that if, as we have just seen, relationism entails that "all the elements 
of meaning in a given situation have reference to one another" (86), then 
the situation's one not simply of correlation but of congruence. "Such a 
system of meanings is possible and valid only in a given type of historical 
existence, to which, for a time, it furnishes appropriate expression" (86). 
At any time in history, certain positions are congruent, compatible, appro- 
priate. Realization of the difference between correlation and congruence 
provides us with the transition from a nonevaluative to an evaluative 
concept of ideology (88), and hence also the basis for a new concept of 
truth. The nonevaluative stage of analysis is only provisory, a stage that 
trains us to think in dynamic and relational terms, rather than in terms of 
atemporal essences. It is a way of drawing all the consequences from the 
collapse of absolute, eternal norms and from the state of ideological war. 

The transition to an evaluative concept is implied in the nonevaluative 
to the extent that the latter is already a weapon against intellectual dog- 
matism. The notion of relativism itself supposes an opposition to and fight 
against dogmatism. Mannheim knows that neither he nor anyone else can 
stay in a position above or outside the total game; everyone is inextricably 
part of the game. This recurrence of the analysis on the analyst provides 
what Mannheim calls an "evaluative-epistemological" presupposition (88), 
something that runs not only against dogmatism but also against positivism . 
It is impossible for anyone to be merely a descriptive thinker. 

In fact, the more aware one becomes of the presuppositions underlying his thinking, 
in the interest of truly empirical research, the more it is apparent that this empirical 
procedure (in the social sciences, at least) can be carried on only on the basis of 
certain meta-empirical, ontological, and metaphysical judgments and the expecta- 
tions and hypothesis that follow from them. He who makes no decisions has no 
questions to raise and is not even able to formulate a tentative hypothesis which 
enables him to set a problem and to search history for its answer. Fortunately 



positivism did commit itself to certain metaphysical and ontological judgments, 
despite its anti-metaphysical prejudices and its pretensions to the contrary. Its faith 
in progress and its naive realism in specific cases are examples of such ontological 
judgments. (89) 

This is a most courageous statement. To be a strict empiricist is in fact 
impossible, because if one has no questions, then one searches for nothing 
and will in turn receive no answers. One cannot claim to be a mere empirical 
observer of ideologies, because even this supposedly nonevaluative stand- 
point falls under the ideology of objectivity, which is itself part of a certain 
concept of truth. 

The question once more arises, what kind of new criterion for an eval- 
uative standpoint can emerge after the collapse of all the objective, tran- 
scendent, empirical criteria? This question is capable of solution only for 
the one who no longer opposes ultimate and transcendent truths to history 
but tries to find meaning in the historical process itself. Here lies Mann- 
heim's desperate attempt to see history furnish the criteria which can no 
longer be provided by either a transcendental or an empirical method. 
"[T]he circumstance that we do not find absolute situations in history 
indicates that history is mute and meaningless only to him who expects to 
learn nothing from it . . ." (93). It seems that it is from a kind of crypto- 
Hegelianism that Mannheim expects an answer: the study of intellectual 
history seeks "to discover in the totality of the historical complex the role, 
significance, and meaning of each component element" (93). We must give 
up the position of the absolute observer and merge in the movements of 
history itself. Then a new diagnosis will be possible — the point of view of 
congruence, the sense of what is congruent in a certain situation. 

The transition to an evaluative point of view is necessitated from the very beginning 
by the fact that history as history is unintelligible unless certain of its aspects are 
emphasized in contrast to others. This selection and accentuation of certain aspects 
of historical totality may be regarded as the first step in the direction which 
ultimately leads to an evaluative procedure and to ontological judgments. (93—94) 

Why are these judgments called ontological? Recourse to the word "onto- 
logical" is strange, since Mannheim has in principle given up a transcendent 
standpoint. But decisions have to be made about what is real; we must 
distinguish the true from the untrue, says Mannheim, in order to fight 
against false consciousness, a concept to which the text now turns. 

In Mannheim's discussion of false consciousness, the key concept is that 
of the inadequate, the inappropriate, the noncongruent. The danger of 



false consciousness must be faced by determining "which of all the ideas 
current are really valid in a given situation" (94), and the noncongment 
are those which are not valid. The concept of the noncongruent provides 
us with the correlation between ideology and Utopia, as will become evident 
ki our discussion of the Utopian mentality. By way of anticipation we mav 
repeat a point made at the outset of this lecture, that a mode of thought is 
noncongruent in one of two ways. It either lags behind or stands ahead of 
a given situation. These two modalities of noncongruence are continually 
fighting against one another. In either case, says Mannheim, "the reality 
to be comprehended is distorted and concealed. . . ." (97). Mannheim will 
leave discussion of the Utopian mode of noncongruence until later 
and focuse^ here on the problem of ideological noncongruence. "Anti- 
quated and inapplicable norms, modes of thought, and theories," he says, 
"are likely to degenerate into ideologies whose function it is to conceal the 
actual meaning of conduct rather than to reveal it" (95). 

Mannheim provides three well-chosen examples of this inadequation 
between the trend of society and a system of thought. First is the late 
medieval church's condemnation of interest on loans (95—96). This inter- 
diction failed because it was inadequate to the economic situation, partic- 
ularly with the rise of capitalism at the beginning of the Renaissance. The 
prohibition failed not as an absolute judgment about lending money but 
because of its inadequacy to the historical situation. Mannheim's second 
example of noncongruence is the following: 

As examples of "false consciousness" taking the form of an incorrect interpretation 
of one's own self and one's role, we may cite those cases in which persons try to 
cover up their "real" relations to themselves and to the world, and falsify to 
themselves the elementary facts of human existence by deifying, romanticizing, or 
idealizing them, in short, by resorting to the device of escape from themselves and 
the world, and thereby conjuring up false interpretations of experience. (96) . 

Mannheim calls this an attempt "to resolve conflicts and anxieties by having 
recourse to absolutes" (96). The example has some overtones of the He- 
gelian beautiful soul; it is an escape into an absolute position but an escape 
which cannot be applied, which has no possibility of being realized. Mann- 
heim's third example of inadequacy is perhaps less striking. It is the case 
of a landed proprietor "whose estate has already become a capitalistic 
undertaking" (96) and yet who tries to preserve a paternalistic relation with 
his employees. The owner's system of thought, that of the patriarchal age, 
is inadequate to the situation in which he is in fact a capitalist. 



The noncongruence is a discordance between what we say and what in 
fact we do. What, though, are the criteria for determining this lack of 
congruence? Who is the good judge who determines the truth regarding 
this congruence? This is the enigma, because once again we seem to need 
an independent observer of noncongruence, and this distant observer may 
only claim that "every idea must be tested by its congruence with reality" 
(98). What is reality, though, and for whom? Reality ineluctably includes 
all sorts of appreciations and judgments of values. Reality is not only objects 
but involves human beings and'their thought. No one knows reality outside 
the multiplicity of ways it is conceptualized, since reality is always caught 
in a framework of thought that is itself an ideology. Mannheim seems to 
want to return to a nonevaluative concept of both reality and ideology 
precisely in order to judge what is and what is not congruent. Mannheim 
is always quite self-conscious about what he is doing, and he is aware at 
this stage of the difficulty in which he is entangling himself. Each step in 
advance seems to reintroduce the contradiction. We want to evaluate the 
congruence between a thought and a situation, but the judgment of con- 
gruence requires a nonevaluative act. Mannheim refers to his problem here 
in an embarrassed footnote: 

The careful reader will perhaps note that from this point on the evaluative concep- 
tion of ideology tends once more to take on the form of the non-evaluative, but 
this, of course, is due to our intention to discover an evaluative solution. This 
instability in the definition of the concept is part of the technique of research, 
which might be said to have arrived at maturity and which therefore refuses to 
enslave itself to any one particular standpoint which would restrict its view. This 
dynamic relationism offers the only possible way out of a world-situation in which 
we are presented with a multiplicity of conflicting viewpoints. . . . {98 n. ) 

Our thought must be flexible and dialectical, and once again we have a 
Hegelian element, if without Absolute Knowledge. While it may appear 
that we have escaped the pitfalls of a quasi-Hegelian survey of the whole, 
the concept of reality assumed by Mannheim's exposition in fact reintro- 
duces the Hegelian thematic. 

What we find, therefore, is that the claimed judgment of congruence or 
noncongruence between an alleged "traditional mode of thought and the 
novel objects of experience" (101) raises as many questions as it solves. 
The problem at issue here will return in our discussion of Habermas and 
his analysis of self- reflection, because the critique of ideology always pre- 
supposes a reflective act that is itself not part of the ideological process. 



This is the great difficulty of the problem of ideology. We are caught in a 
kind of tornado, we are literally engulfed in a process which is self-defeat- 
ing, which seems to allow only ideological judgment, but we are also 
supposed to be able at one point or another to assume a position outside 
this Vhirlwind in order to go on speaking about the process. 

In Mannheim what preserves the thinker from being completely de- 
stroyed by this tornado, by the ruins of the temple falling in on Him or 
her, is precisely the claim that one may have total reflection, may see the 
whole. Mannheim resorts to the category of totality. He has several refer- 
ences to the concept of a "total situation" (102, 104). We want, he says, "a 
more inclusive knowledge of the object" (103). He argues against positiv- 
ism, which exalts philosophy while exiling it from the fruits of empirical 
investigation and thereby avoids "the problem of the 'whole' " (104). He 
says we must "find a more fundamental axiomatic point of departure, a 
position from which it will be possible to synthesize the total situation" 
(105). "Only when we are thoroughly aware of the limited scope of every 
point of view are we on the road to the sought- for comprehension of the 
whole" (105). We are caught in an ever enlargening process. Mannheim 
speaks of "the striving towards a total view" (106). To see oneself in the 
context of the whole represents in miniature "the ever-widening drive 
towards a total conception" (107). Mannheim's concept of totality is not 
the transcendent absolute, but it plays the same role of transcending the 
particular point of view. Again, it is the assumption of Hegelianism without 
Absolute Knowledge. 

I do not want to insist too much on Mannheim's failure to admit that 
we cannot get out of the circle between reflection and ideology, to admit 
that total reflection is not finally a human possibility, because his discussion 
has its reward elsewhere, in the fourth chapter of his book. In turning to 
that chapter, "The Utopian Mentality," I shall be more brief, because I 
shall reserve its description of concrete Utopias for presentation in the last 
part of the lectures. At this point, I shall consider only the chapter's first 
two sections, since they provide a partial answer to the problems we. have 
just raised. I immediately anticipate this answer by saying that what we 
must assume is that the judgment on an ideology is always the judgment 
from a Utopia. This is my conviction: the only way to get out of the 
circularity in which ideologies engulf us is to assume a Utopia, declare it, 
and judge an ideology on this basis. Because the absolute onlooker is 
impossible, then it is someone within the process itself who takes the 



responsibility for judgment. It may also be more modest to say that the 
judgment is always a point of view — a polemical point of view though one 
which claims to assume a better future for humanity — and a point of view 
which declares itself as such. It is to the extent finally that the correlation 
ideology-utopia replaces the impossible correlation ideology-science that a 
certain solution to the problem of judgment may be found, a solution, I 
should add, itself congruent with the claim that no point of view exists 
outside the game. Therefore, if there can be no transcendent onlooker, 
then & practical concept is what must be assumed. In this fourth chapter 
of Mannheim's, which I find a ntore positive treatment of our problem, 
ideology and Utopia make sense together as a significant pair of opposite 

In the first pages of the chapter, Mannheim provides formal criteria for 
Utopia, criteria to which his later description of concrete Utopias will supply 
some content. For Mannheim there are two formal criteria of Utopia, and 
these provide by contrast the laws of ideology. The first criterion, which 
it shares in common with ideology, is a certain noncongruence, a noncoin- 
cidence, with the state of reality in which it occurs. There are many 
synonyms of this expression in Karl Mannheim ; the emphasis is on ideas 
and interests that are "situationally transcendent" (193). These ideas are 
transcendent not in the sense of a philosophy of transcendence but with 
respect to the present state of reality. Again the difficulty is determining 
what is in fact reality. To measure noncongruence we must have a concept 
of reality, but this concept of reality is itself part of the evaluative frame- 
work, and once more a circularity returns. 

The second criterion of Utopia is more decisive. A Utopia tends "to 
shatter, either partially or wholly, the order of things prevailing at the 
time" (192). Here ideology may be defined by opposition to Utopia; it is 
what preserves a certain order. This criterion of ideology is a better one 
than the first. It is more limited and is also not necessarily pejorative, 
although Mannheim himself does not go this far. Ideology is not necessarily 
pejorative because, as I shall try to show in the last ideology lecture, we 
need a certain concept of the self-identity of a group. Even a historical 
force that works to shatter the present order also presupposes something 
else that preserves the identity of a certain group, a certain class, a certain 
historical situation, and so on. 

Let us consider at greater length these two criteria of ideology and Utopia, 
where the first is common and the second differential. The interest of 



Mannheim's chapter is the interplay between these two criteria. Mannheim 
is aware that even his first criterion, noncongruence, implies a stand con- 
cerning what is reality. Attention to the nature of "existence as such," he 
says, is a philosophical matter, and of no concern here. Instead, what is 
important is that which is regarded as the "real" historically or 

Inasmuch as man is a creature living primarily in history and society, the "existence" 
that surrounds him is never "existence as such," but is always a concrete historical 
form of social existence. For the sociologist, "existence" is that which is "concretely- 
effective," i.e. a functioning social order, which does not exist only in the imagi- 
nation of certain individuals but according to which people really act. (193-94) 

We must assume that there exists something like a collective body func- 
tioning according to certain rules and so an " 'operating order of life' " 
(194). (In the next lecture we shall see some similar concepts in Max 
Weber.) Just as in Marx, Mannheim permanently returns to oppose ide- 
ology not to science but to what is really operative, and therefore to a 
concrete criterion of praxis. It may be difficult to assume that we know 
what is in fact the operative in society, but it is this criterion to which we 
oppose the illusory as the important fancy. In contrast to someone like 
Geertz, Mannheim has no notion of a symbolically constituted operating 
order; hence an ideology is necessarily the noncongruent, something tran- 
scendent in the sense of the discordant or that which is not implied in 
humanity's genetic code. 

The definition of reality as an operating order of life has difficulties even 
on Mannheim's own terms, because we must include in it, he says, more 
than simply economic and political structures : 

Every concretely "operating order of life" is to be conceived and characterized most 
clearly by means of the particular economical and political structure on which it is 
based. But it embraces also all those forms of human "living-together" (specific 
forms of love, sociability, conflict, etc.) which the structure makes possible or 
requires. . . . (194) 

The operating order of life is both infirastructural and superstructural. This 
creates problems, because the elements of noncongruence must be placed 
in the same sphere as forms of human living-together; both imply cultural 
roles, norms, and so on. It is difficult to determine what makes some social 
modes of thought and experience congruous with the actual operating order 
of life and others not. Once more it is a practical decision to claim that 



certain modes of thought belong to the operating order of life and others 
do not. Mannheim tries to define as situationally transcendent and therefore 
unreal conceptions whose content cannot be realized in the actual order 
(194). These conceptions are said not to fit into the current order. But 
what about the case of ideologies, which do not shatter the existing order 
but rather preserve it? Mannheim wants to say that conceptions are not 
part of the operating order of life if they cannot be realized without shat- 
tering the given order. Ideologies, though, are situationally transcendent 
yet can be actualized without upsetting the order that exists. Mannheim's 
definition of noncongruence is a criterion very difficult to apply. 

As an illustration of his argument about the situationally transcendent 
nature of ideologies, Mannheim offers the idea of Christian brotherly love 
touted during the medieval period. 

Ideologies are the situationally transcendent ideas which never succeed de facto in 
the realization of their projected contents. Though they often become the good- 
intenttoned motives for the subjective conduct of the individual, when they are 
actually embodied in practice their meanings are most frequently distorted. The 
idea of Christian brotherly love, for instance, in a society founded on serfdom 
remains an unrealizable and, in this sense, ideological idea. . . . (194-95) 

What we actually have here is characterization of ideology's noncongruence 
at a second level. Ideology's noncongruence is of a certain sort: the tran- 
scending ideas espoused are invalid or incapable of changing the existing 
order; they do not affect the status quo. With ideology the unreal is the 
impossible. The ideological mentality assumes the impossibility of change 
either because it accepts the systems of justification explaining the noncon- 
gruence or because the noncongruence has been concealed, by factors 
ranging from unconscious deception to conscious lie (195). 

The criterion of Utopia, on the other hand, seems to be success. 

Utopias too transcend the social situation, for they too orient conduct towards 
elements which the situation, in so far as it is realized at the time, does not contain. 
But they are not ideologies, i.e. they are not ideologies in the measure and in so far 
as they succeed through counteractivity in transforming the existing historical 
reality into one more in accord with their own conceptions. (195-96) 

The sterility of ideology is opposed to the f ruitf ulness of Utopia ; the latter 
is able to change things. The capacity to change provides the criterion. 
This formal distinction between ideology and Utopia has the advantage of 
offering a common kernel and a difference. As we have seen, though, the 



common kernel — noncongruence — is difficult to ascertain in any formal 

nonevaluative manner, and as we now turn to discuss, the difference 

readability — is questionable also. The allocation of realizability to Utopia 
gives it a univocal efficiency which does not allow us to derive its pathology 
as wfshful thinking. On the other hand, because ideology is viewed as the 
unrealizable, its possible congruence with existing society is dismissed, 
and we are led to overlook ideology's conservative function, in the several 
senses of that word. 

We can pursue these questions about Mannheim's formal criteria of 
ideology and Utopia by examining in greater detail the supposed realiza- 
bility of Utopia. This criterion is odd, because when we attempt to apply 
it in society, it>is often reversed. When it is representatives of the ruling 
class who pass judgment, a Utopia is precisely the unrealizable. Application 
of the formal criterion raises a problem, because "What in a given case 
appears as Utopian . . ." (196; emphasis added) depends on who in society 
is speaking. To give this formal criterion some content, to transform it into 
the concrete, we must consult those who assume these concepts. We have 
a strange exchange in meaning, because what appears as Utopian or ideo- 
logical depends not only "on the stage and degree of reality to which one 
applies this standard" (196) but also on which group is doing the labeling. 
Thus it is both a question of something being labeled as ideological or 
Utopian and of the label being ascribed or assigned by someone. For the 
representatives of a given order, the Utopian means the unrealizable. This 
contradicts, however, the formal criterion advocated by the sociologist. 
Further, it is a self-deception for the representatives of order to call un- 
realizable what is not realizable according to their order. Because they take 
the given order as the measure of everything, then a Utopia appears as the 
unrealizable, whereas it is defined formally precisely by its capacity for 
change. The formal definition is defeated by those who use the label, and 
this is one more paradox of the discussion. We are caught in so many 
paradoxes, and Mannheim may be viewed exactly as the exponent of this 
self-defeating process of thought about Utopia and ideology. The formal 
definition of Utopia should be without perspective, but this very possibility 
seems to be denied by the perspectival constitution of social existence. As 
Mannheim himself puts it: 

The very attempt to determine the meaning of the concept "utopia" shows to what 
extent every definition in historical thinking depends necessarily upon one's per- 
spective, i.e. it contains within itself the whole system of thought representing the 



position of the thinker in question and especially the political evaluations which lie 
behind this system of thought. (196-97) 

Those protecting the status quo call Utopian everything that goes beyond 
the present existing order, no matter whether it may be an absolute Utopia, 
unrealizable in any circumstance, or a relative Utopia, unrealizable only 
within the given order. By obscuring this distinction, the present order 
can "suppress the validity of the claims of the relative Utopia" (197). What 
is realizable in another order is the criterion of Utopia proposed by the 
sociology of knowledge and defeated by those who use the criterion of 
realizability for their own purposes. 

We may attempt to defend the formal conception of Utopia by claiming 
that it is distorted by ideology. Ideology typifies Utopia as what cannot be 
realized, whereas formally it is precisely what can be realized. Yet this does 
not remove the formal conception from taint, because as Mannheim himself 
suggests, the criteria for determining what is realizable are in actuality 
always provided by the representatives of dominant or ascendant groups 
and not by the sociology of knowledge. We find here the positive aspect of 
Mannheim's analysis, an effort to relate the labels advocated to the social 
positions of those doing the labeling. At this point Mannheim is perhaps 
more Marxist than anywhere else in his book. 

Whenever an idea is labelled Utopian it is usually by a representative of an epoch 
that has already passed. On the other hand, the exposure of ideologies as illusory 
ideas, adapted to the present order, is the work generally of representatives of an 
order of existence which is still in process of emergence. It is always the dominant 
group which is in full accord with the existing order that determines what is to be 
regarded as Utopian, while the ascendant group which is in conflict with things as 
they are is the one that determines what is regarded as ideological. (203) 

As an illustration of this labeling process Mannheim offers the changing 
views about the concept of freedom (203—4). From the beginning of the 
sixteenth century until the end of the eighteenth, the concept of freedom 
was a Utopian concept. As soon, though, as the ruling class discovered that 
the concept had implications concerning the notion of equality, extensions 
which they refused, then their own advocacy of freedom became a way to 
preserve the social order against those in fact pressing for these extensions. 
The same concept was alternatively Utopian, conservative, and Utopian 
once more. Characterization depends on which group is advocating the 

We have to deal, then, with both what is actually regarded as Utopian 

i 7 8 


and what is said to be Utopian from a more distant point of view. Mann- 
heim's whole work is an attempt to change this distance, to make us look 
at the concept both from within the groups advocating or denying it and 
from the sociologist's point of view. The problem, though, is that the two 
definitions do not coincide. For the sociologist the Utopia is the realizable, 
whereas for those in power the Utopia is precisely what they refuse, what 
they find to be incompatible with their order. A contradiction exists within 
the criteria according to who uses the criteria. 

What may we conclude from these difficulties in applying the formal 
criterion? Mannheim concedes that in the midst of a conflict of ideas the 
criterion of realizability, which is the criterion of what is truly Utopian, is 
of little use (20^) . It is only for past Utopias that we may apply Mannheim's 
criterion. Realizability is a nearly useless criterion for present controversies, 
because we are always caught in the conflict not only between ideologies 
but also between rising and dominant groups. The conflict between dom- 
inant and ascendant involves the polemics, the dialectics, of Utopia and 

From this discussion of Utopia we may derive three consequences for 
ideology. First, the connection between Utopia and an ascending group 
provides the fundamental contrast for the connection between ideology 
and the ruling group. The criterion for what is ideological seems to depend 
on the critique proffered by the Utopian mind. The capacity to unconceal 
something as ideological seems to be an effect of the Utopian potentialities 
of the rising group or at least of those who think with or for this group. If 
this is true, if ideology is recognized only in the process of unmasking it, 
then the so-called epistemological break becomes more concrete when 
coupled with these Utopian possibilities. It is always the product of a Utopia. 

I submit, therefore, that there is no mind which liberates itself suddenly 
without the support of something else. Is it not always the Utopian possi- 
bilities of individuals or groups which nourish our capacity to distanciate 
ourselves from ideologies? We cannot get out of the polarity between Utopia 
and ideology. It is always a Utopia which defines what is ideological, and 
so characterization is always relative to the assumptions of the conflicting 
groups. To know this is also to know that Utopia and ideology are not 
theoretical concepts. We cannot expect too much from these concepts since 
they constitute a practical circle. Consequently, any claim to a scientific 
view of ideology is merely and only a claim. The insight here may be 
another way of saying with Aristotle that in human matters we cannot 



expect the same kind of accuracy as in scientific matters. Politics is not a 
science, it is an art of orienting oneself among conflicting groups. The 
concept of politics must remain polemical ; there is a place for polemics in 
life, and to acknowledge this is the honest import of the problem. Politics 
is not a descriptive concept but a polemical concept provided by the 
dialectics between Utopia and ideology. 

The second insight of our discussion is that if Utopia is what shatters a 
given order, by contrast ideology is what preserves order. This means that 
the problematic of domination and the place of power in the structure of 
human existence become a central issue. The question is not only who has 
power but how is a system of power legitimized. Utopia also operates at 
the level of the legitimation process; it shatters a given order by offering 
alternative ways to deal with authority and power. Legitimacy is what is 
at stake in the conflict between ideology and Utopia, and in the next lecture 
I shall address myself to Max Weber to inquire into this critical issue. I 
think also of Hannah Arendt's main work. Arendt keeps returning to the 
question of the relation in human existence between power and labor, 
work, and action, and she formulates this problematic in terms of existential 
categories and not merely sociological structures. 

A third consequence of our discussion is that once we situate the conflict 
between ideology and Utopia in terms of legitimation or the questioning of 
the system of power, then the opposition stressed by Mannheim between 
ideology as the harmless and Utopia as the historically realizable seems less 
decisive. If we now emphasize that Utopia is what shatters order and 
ideology what preserves order (sometimes by distortion but sometimes also 
by a legitimate process), then the criterion of readability is not a good 
way to distinguish the two. To begin with, the criterion may be applied 
only to the past, as we have already noted. Second, it also sacralizes success, 
and it is not simply because an idea succeeds that it is either good or for 
the good. Who knows whether what has been condemned by history will 
not return in more favorable circumstances? Realizability is also not a good 
criterion because ideologies are in a sense already realized. They confirm 
what exists. The "unreal" element in the dialectic is not defined by the 
unrealizable but by the ideal, in its legitimizing function. The transcendent 
is the "ought" which the "is" conceals. 

Further, Utopias themselves are never realized to the extent that they 
create the distance between what is and what ought to be. Mannheim's 
own typology of Utopias confirms this and also indicates that Mannheim 



himself did not apply the criterion of readability to the end. As we shall 
discuss at greater length in the lectures specifically on Utopia, Mannheim 
claims that the first form of the Utopian mentality occurred at the point 
when Chiliasm — a millenarian movement — "joined forces with the active 
demands of the oppressed strata of society" under Thomas Munzer and 
the Anabaptists (211). This conjunction provided the original moment of 
Utopian distance. At the other end of the typology — the contemporary 
period — Mannheim envisages the actual loss of Utopia in the "gradual 
descent" and the "closer aproximation to real life" of the Utopian forces 
(248). The decisive trait of Utopia is then not realizability but the preser- 
vation of opposition. The entropy of Utopia in the present situation, the 
threatened los,? of total perspective resulting from the disappearance of 
Utopia, is leading to a situation where scattered events no longer have 
meaning. "The frame of reference according to which we evaluate facts 
vanishes and we are left with a series of events all equal as far as their inner 
significance is concerned" (253). If we could imagine a society where 
everything is realized, there congruence would exist. This society, how- 
ever, would also be dead, because there would be no distance, no ideals, 
no project at all. Mannheim fights against those who claim — and herald — 
that we are now living in the time of the death of ideology and Utopia. The 
suppression of noncongruence, the suppression of the disconnection be- 
tween ideals and reality, would be the death of society. It would be the 
time of a prosaic attitude, a "matter-of-factness" (Sachlichkeit) (262); we 
would have precisely a nonideological and nonutopian society, and this 
would be a dead society. The critical mark of Utopia is then not realizability 
but the preservation of distance between itself and reality. 

It may appear that Mannheim's analysis in many ways has circular and 
self-defeating results. What we have also discovered, though, is that he 
provides us with the grounds for a new theoretical framework. We have 
had to learn that we cannot get out of the circle between ideology and 
Utopia, but we have also taken the first steps toward demonstrating that 
this circle is in fact a practical one and so not vicious and self-defeating. 

Weber (i) 

Before entering my discussion of Max Weber, I would like to say a few 
words about the general framework within which my approach to Weber 
is located. In examining first Marx and then Althusser, the lectures began 
with the Marxist concept of ideology as distortion. The rest of the ideology 
lectures are a response to the problem raised by the Marxist orientation: 
within what conceptual framework does the concept of ideology as distor- 
tion best make sense? My intention is not at all to refute Marxism but to 
resituate and strengthen some of its statements concerning the distorting 

To respond to the Marxist orientation on ideology, we must raise four 
questions. The first, which we have discussed with Mannheim, is where 
do we stand when we speak of ideology? If the claim is that we may approach 
ideology scientifically, then we are supposedly outside the social game in 
the position of the onlooker. We attempt to elaborate a nonevaluative 
concept of ideology. This is impossible, however, since sociology itself 
belongs to the social game. Therefore, my argument was that we must 
preserve and do justice to the polemical element of ideology, something 
which can be accomplished principally by relating ideology to Utopia. It is 
always from the point of view of a nascent Utopia that we may speak of a 
dying ideology. It is the conflict and intersection of ideology and Utopia 
that makes sense of each. 

My second question concerns the relation between ideology and domi- 
nation. One of Marxism's strongest points and most important insights is 
that the ruling ideas of an epoch are the ideas of a ruling class. This 
correlation between domination and ideology is what I shall try to elucidate 
with the help of Max Weber. I shall then ask, third, whether it is possible 


Weber (i) 

to have a critique of ideology without a certain project, a certain interest, 
such as an interest in the extension of communication, an interest in 
emancipation, and so on. I shall address myself to Habermas for this 
connection between a critique of ideology and a specific kind of interest, 
an # interest which cannot be put, as in Althusser, simply on the side of 
ideology, because if there is no interest to support the critique, then the 
critique collapses. 

My fourth and final question asks whether there can be distortion in 
society unless society has a fundamental symbolic structure. The hypoth- 
esis is that at the most basic level what is distorted is the symbolic structure 
of action. Logically if not temporally the constitutive function of ideology 
must precede its distortive function. We could not understand what dis- 
tortion meant if there were not something to be distorted, something that 
was of the same symbolic nature. I shall introduce Geertz as the best author 
to make this demonstration. I myself published something on this topic in 
France before knowing Geertz, 1 but I shall use Geertz since I think he 
develops the issue better than I did. Geertz says that we may identify the 
constitutive function of ideology at the level of what he calls symbolic 

As a whole, therefore, the lectures on ideology start from the surface 
level of ideology as distortion and proceed to a second-level correlation of 
ideology with domination, then to the crucial transitional connection be- 
tween interest and critique, and finally to what I call the constitutive 
function of ideology. The movement is a regressive analysis of ideology 
from its distortive function to its legitimative function and then to its 
constitutive function. 

This depiction of ideology will allow us, at the end of the lectures, to 
establish by contrast the character of Utopia. Whether distorting, legiti- 
mating, or constituting, ideology always has the function of preserving an 
identity, whether of a group or individual. As we shall see, Utopia has the 
opposite function: to open the possible. Even when an ideology is consti- 
tutive, when it returns us, for example, to the founding deeds of a com- 
munity — religious, political, etc. — it acts to make us repeat our identity. 
Here the imagination has a mirroring or staging function. Utopia, on the 
other hand, is always the exterior, the nowhere, the possible. The contrast 
between ideology and Utopia permits us to see the two sides of the imagi- 
native function in social life. 

In turning now to Weber, I am interested in one aspect of his theory, 

Weber (i) 


his concept of Herrschaft. Two of the principal ways this concept has been 
translated into English are as authority and domination, and for our pur- 
poses the relationship between authority and domination is precisely the 
issue. Weber's approach to Herrschaft is important to our discussion for 
two reasons. First, he provides us a better conceptual framework to deal 
with the problem of domination than the orthodox Marxists. (Note that 
the comparison is to the orthodox Marxists, not to Marx himself. As I have 
argued, Marx's own work seems to allow a reading congruent with the 
framework that I am attempting to promote.) The orthodox Marxist model 
is mechanicist and based on the relation between infrastructure and super- 
structure. It involves the impossible scholasticism concerning the efficiency 
in the last instance of the base and the relative autonomy of the superstruc- 
ture and its capacity of reacting back on the base. Because dependent on 
the notion of efficiency, classical Marxism has been caught in an impossible 
and finally nondialectical model; its concept of causality is pre-Kantian, 
precritical. The alternative Weber proposes to this mechanicist perspective 
is a motivational model. I shall first discuss this model of Weber's in order 
to situate the applicability of some of his other concepts for our discussion 
of ideology. 

Weber is important, second, because he provides within this motivational 
framework a complementary analysis on the relation between the ruling 
group and ruling ideas. He introduces the critical concept of legitimacy 
and discusses the conjunction between claims to legitimacy and beliefs in 
legitimacy, a nexus that supports a system of authority. The question of 
legitimacy belongs to a motivational model, because the interaction of claim 
and belief must be placed within an appropriate conceptual framework, 
and, as we shall see, this framework can only be motivational. My argument 
is that ideology occurs in the gap between a system of authority's claim to 
legitimacy and our response in terms of belief. This interpretation is my 
own and not available in Weber, so it is a footnote to Weber, but perhaps 
a footnote that makes its own contribution to Weber's model. Ideology 
functions to add a certain surplus- value to our belief in order that our belief 
may meet the requirements of the authority's claim. The Marxist notion 
of distortion makes more sense if we say that it is always the function of 
ideology to legitimate a claim of legitimacy by adding a supplement to our 
spontaneous belief. The function of ideology at this stage is to fill the 
credibility gap in all systems of authority. This argument is coherent, 
though, only in a motivational and not in a mechanistic model. For this 


Weber (1) 

reason I shall devote the first part of the lecture to clarifying the motiva- 
tional model itself. Our text is Weber's major work, Economy and Society 
(Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft). 

Let us begin with Weber's definition of the task of sociology. Sociology 
is defined as an interpretive understanding; the notion of interpretation is 
included in the task of sociology. From Weber to Geertz there will be no 
important change in this philosophical background. "Sociology (in the 
sense in which this highly ambiguous word is used here) is a science 
concerning itself with the interpretive understanding [deutend verstehen] 
of social action and thereby with a causal explanation of its course and 
consequences" (4). The causal element is included within the interpretive 
element. It a because sociology is interpretive that it can offer causal 
explanation. What must be both interpreted and explained is action, pre- 
cisely action (Handeln) and not behavior, because behavior is a set of 
movements in space, whereas action makes sense for the human agent. 
"We shall speak of 'action' insofar as the acting individual attaches a sub- 
jective meaning to his behavior . . ." (4). It is critically important that the 
definition of action include the meaning of action for the agent. (We may 
foresee that the possibility of distortion is included within this dimension 
of meaning. ) There is not action first and only then representation, because 
meaning is an integral component of the definition of action. An essential 
aspect of the constitution of action is that it must be meaningful for the 

Action depends not only on its making sense for the subject, however, 
because it must also make sense in correlation with other subjects. Action 
is both subjective and intersubjective. "Action is 'social' insofar as its 
subjective meaning takes account of the behavior of others and is thereby 
oriented in its course" (4). The intersubjective element is incorporated 
from the beginning. Sociology is interpretive to the extent that its object 
implies, on the one hand, a dimension of subjective meaning and, on the 
other hand, an account of the motives of others. From the start we have a 
conceptual network involving the notion of action, meaning, orientation 
to others, and understanding (Verstehen). This network constitutes the 
motivational model. What is particularly significant for our discussion is 
that orientation to the other is a component of subjective meaning. 

This notion of being oriented to or of taking into account the other is 
described more thoroughly when Weber returns several pages later to the 
concept of social action. "Social action, which includes both failure to act 

Weber (i) 


and passive acquiescence, may be oriented to the past, present, or expected 
future behavior of others. Thus it may be motivated by revenge for a past 
attack, defence against present, or measures of defence against future 
aggression" (22). Within this framework of orientation to the other, several 
factors stand out. We must recognize that passive acquiescence is part of 
social action, as it is a component of the belief in authority; to obey, to 
submit oneself to, to assume the validity of an authority, is part of an action. 
Not doing is part of doing. Further, social action's orientation to "past, 
present, or expected future behavior of others" introduces an element of 
time. As Alfred Schutz develops this notion, we are oriented not only to 
our contemporaries but to our predecessors and to our successors; this 
temporal sequence constitutes the historical dimension of action. Finally, 
the motivation of action by past, present, or future events — whether ex- 
ternal aggression or not — alerts us that one of the functions of an ideology 
is to preserve identity through time. This will be a major point in our 
discussion of Geertz. Erik Erikson has a similar theory about the individ- 
ual's integration of stages. What remains the most significant factor in the 
definition of social action, though, is its orientation to the behavior of 
others. This orientation to others is the key component of the motivational 
model. "[T]he actor's behavior is meaningfully oriented to that of others 
..." (23; emphasis added). 

If I insist on this definition of social action, it is to argue against a 
position like Althusser's. If we place all references to the subject on the 
distortive side of ideology, we separate ourselves from the definition of 
social science to the extent that its object of study is action. If no agent is 
available to make sense of his or heraction, we have not action but behavior. 
We are then condemned either to social behaviorism or to an examination 
of social forces, such as collective entities, classes, and so on, and no one 
will be oriented to or attempting to make sense of these factors. Meaningful 
action is contrasted with causal determination. As an example of this 
difference, Weber offers the case of imitation, an influential subject at the 
beginning of this century. The question was whether social reality is 
derived by one individual imitating another. Weber discards the concept 
of imitation as foundational, precisely because it is too causal; it does not 
imply a meaningful orientation. "[M]ere 'imitation' of the action of others 
. . . will not be considered a case of specifically social action if it is purely 
reactive so that there is no meaningful orientation to the actor imitated." 
This action is "causally determined by the action of others, but not mean- 

1 86 

Weber (i) 

ingfully" (23—24; emphasis in original). If causality is not included within 
the meaningful, that is, if the connection is only causal, then it is not part 
of action. 

The first point about the motivational model, then, is that it is interpre- 
tive understanding oriented to the action of others. A second point is that 
Weber develops this model through ideal types, and we must understand 
the role these ideal types play. For Weber, the concept of meaning becomes 
a pitfall for science if science can relate to what is meaningful for the 
individual only by a form of intuition. This leaves us lost in the immense 
variety of individual motivations. Weber's alternative is that we must 
handle individual cases by placing them under types, ideal types, which 
are only methodological constructs. What is real is always the individual 
orienting himself or herself toward other individuals, but we need some 
modes of orientation, modes of motivation, to classify the fundamental 
types of this orientation. Sociology, as the understanding of meaningful 
action, is possible only if meaningful action may be classified according to 
some significant types. 

Social action, like all action, may be oriented in four ways. It may be: 

(1) instrumentally rational (zweckrational) , that is, determined by expectations as 
to the behavior of objects in the environment and of other human beings . . . ; 

(2) value-rational (wertrational), that is, determined by a conscious belief in the 
value for its own sake of some ethical, aesthetic, religious, or other form of 
behavior, independently of its prospect of success; 

(3) affectual (especially emotional), that is, determined by the actor's specific 
affects and feeling states; 

(4) traditional, that is, determined by ingrained habituation. (24-25) 

As we shall see in more detail in the following lecture, this typology of 
orientation is fundamental for Weber's typology of legitimacy. The first 
type of social action that Weber defines is a rationality of ends. In the 
system of legitimacy it will have more affinity with the bureaucratic type 
of legal authority, which is supported by rules. The second type's expec- 
tation of meaning will find support in the system of legitimacy provided 
by the charismatic leader, who is believed to be the voice of God, sent by 
God. The charismatic leader also relies on the third type, the emotional 
link between leader and followers. The fourth type, the appeal to tradition, 
will play a significant role in the system of legitimacy to the extent that 
leaders are obeyed because of their traditional status. 

The methodological import of ideal types is that they allow us to grasp 

Weber (i) 


the complexity of singular cases by a combinatory system based on a limited 
get of fundamental types. By proceeding on the basis of combinatory types, 
sociology can cope with the manifoldness of reality. The ideal types are 
intermediary structures which are neither a priori nor merely inductive but 
in between. They are not a priori since they have to be supported by 
experience, but in another sense they also precede experience since they 
provide a leading thread that orients us. There are many discussions 
concerning the status of ideal types, and I shall not enter into them here, 
but we should be aware that we cannot discuss the types of legitimacy if 
we do not keep in mind the epistemological difficulties surrounding the 
concept of the ideal type in general. 

Weber's typology of the orientations or motivations of action foreshadows 
his analysis of legitimacy, because his examples precisely involve the ten- 
sion between claims to and beliefs in legitmacy. We may take the second 
classification, orientation to an absolute, as an example. 

Examples of pure value-rational orientation would be the actions of persons who, 
regardless of possible cost to themselves, act to put into practice their convictions 
of what seems to them to be required by duty, honor, the pursuit of beauty, a 
religious call, personal loyalty, or the importance of some "cause" no matter in 
what it consists. In our terminology, value-rational action always involves "com- 
mands" or "demands" which, in the actor's opinion, are binding on him. It is only 
in cases where human action is motivated by the fulfillment of such unconditional 
demands that it will be called value-rational. (25) 

Commands and demands bring into play the relation between beliefs and 
claims. The function of a political ideology, for example, may be to capture 
the individual's capacity for loyalty for the sake of an actual system of 
power embodied in authoritative institutions. The system of power is then 
able to reap benefits from this human aptitude for loyalty to a cause, a 
willingness to sacrifice oneself to a cause. Politics draws heavily on this 
disposition to loyalty. 

I have anticipated somewhat the discussion about legitimacy, but we 
must be aware of the importance of the order of notions in Weber. Weber 
proceeds step by step, starting from the most fundamental notions toward 
the derived notions. The concepts of belief and claim will not yield their 
potential meaning for ideology before the development of Weber's other 
notions is complete. Of greatest significance in the development of Weber's 
notions, we must observe that the concept of power comes at the end and 
not at the beginning. Weber starts from what makes action human and 

Weber (i) 

then turns to what makes the social link meaningful; before introducing 
the notion of power, he says we must introduce another intermediary 
notion, that of order. 

Introduction of the concept of order is a decisive turn in Weber's anal y sis . 
The, word has taken on many negative connotations in English, but we 
must approach the term in its most original sense, as the constitution of a 
meaningful whole comprised of individuals. The German word is Ordnung, 
an ordering of human beings that precedes orders in the sense of impera- 
tives. We must not put the notion of an imperative too early in the concept 
of order; instead, we must think more in terms of the organization of an 
organism, an organism which introduces relations between parts and 
wholes within human being. To underline the distinction between order 
and imperatives, Weber's discussion emphasizes the notion of legitimate 
order, an important move despite the possible inconveniences caused by 
referring to the concept of legitimacy too early in the analysis. We must 
not define order merely in terms of force. As Geertz will see, this differ- 
entiation alerts us that ideology already plays a role at this level. I would 
argue that Geertz introduces his concept of constitutive ideology exactly 
at the level of legitimate order. We cannot speak of an order which is merely 
enforced and which does not at all claim legitimacy. The claim of legitimacy 
is constitutive of order. 

The legitimacy of an order may be guaranteed in two principal ways: 
I. The guarantee may be purely subjective, being either 

1. affectual: resulting from emotional surrender; or 

2. value-rational : determined by the belief in the absolute validity of the order 
as the expression of ultimate values of an ethical, esthetic or of any other 
type; or 

3. religious: determined by the belief that salvation depends upon obedience 
to the order. 

II. The legitimacy of an order may, however, be guaranteed also (or merely) by 
the expectation of specific external effects, that is, by interest situations. (33) 

Again we find the partial parallelism between the modes of orientation 
previously described and the types of legitimacy. More significantly, it is 
not by chance that to speak of order we must speak of legitimacy and that 
to speak of legitimacy we must speak of motives. It is only within a system 
of motives that the legitimacy of an order may be guaranteed. Weber's 
expressions make sense only within the conceptual framework of meaning- 
ful action. 

Weber (i) 

As we have just seen, it is important that the problem of legitimacy is 
introduced by that of order. It is no less important that legitimacy can be 
ascribed to an order only by reference to the beliefs and representations 
held by those acting subject to it. The point of view is the agent's or actor's. 

The actors may ascribe legitimacy to a social order by virtue of : 

(a) tradition: valid is that which has always been; 

(b) affectual, especially emotional, faith: valid is that which is newly revealed or 

(c) value-rational faith: valid is that which has been deduced as an absolute; 

(d) positive enactment which is believed to be legal. (36) 

We are not interested in the typology for itself; there are many overlapping 
classifications in Weber, and these have embarrassed the commentators. 
Sometimes there are four types — and not always exactly the same four — 
and in other places, like in the system of legitimacy, there are three types. 
Our concern is not with these possible conflicts in Weber's description but 
rather with the general level of his concepts. We must recognize that this 
level is always motivational as soon as the concept of legitimacy is 

Weber leaves little doubt that the legitimacy of order is the central clue 
for the problem of authority. A few lines after the previous quotation 
Weber comments: "All further details, except for a few other concepts to 
be denned below, belong in the Sociology of Law and the Sociology of 
Domination [Herrschaftssoziologie]" (36). The concept in question, we 
remember, is Herrschaft; it is the basic concept toward which our discus- 
sion is directed and headed. The concept of authority or domination is 
introduced at the point when order and legitimacy are considered together. 
We have the first hints of what Weber develops in the third chapter of 
Economy and Society, a discussion to which we shall turn in the next 

In order to make sense of the sociology of authority or domination, 
though, we need to present first a few other intermediary concepts. We 
shall consider only those four that are important for our further discussion. 
The first intermediary concept after that of order concerns the type of the 
social connection or bond (40 ff.). This type does not concern us directly, 
and yet it is not irrelevant to the process of legitimacy whether the link is 
deeply integrative or merely associative. The difference is whether people 
have the feeling of belonging together (Gemeinschaft) or whether they see 
their ties with others more as a contractual link, something more exterior 


Weber (1) 

and less involving (Gesellschaft). This distinction is a classical one in 
German sociology and unfortunately has had some dreadful consequences. 
Though not at all Weber's intention, the plea for the integrative against 
the associative became one of the arguments of Nazi sociologists. The 
emphasis was on promotion of common life with its emotional links and 
on denial of conflict; the argument was that the unity of the race or the 
nation is greater than the conflict of classes. Hidden was the fact that often 
lying behind Gemeinschaft is coercion. 

In contrast, even though Weber's sociology is generally nonevaluative, 
he puts more stress on the associative relationship. In the title of his book 
it is Gesellschaft which prevails and not Gemeinschaft. Attention to the 
associative link proceeds from the juridical tradition of the contract from 
Hobbes through Rousseau and so on. (Rousseau, we might note, can 
actually be read to support both types of the social bond, since the general 
will is more integrative than aggregative.) Weber is as much interested in 
the problems of the economy and the structure of the market as in the 
structure of power, and he emphasizes the associative tie throughout as the 
more rational. For Weber the associative link predominates, at least in 
those economic relations based on the market of the capitalistic system. 
The world here is a realm of conflict, and individuals and organizations 
relate to one another by shaping contracts. The bureaucratic state — which 
Weber generally regards quite positively — is another example of associative 
relationships. In their relationship to the system of administration, workers 
have no feeling of emotional belonging, and for Weber this is good. Workers 
have social roles, and these roles are connected one to another without an 
entaglement of feelings. Weber finds that the role of feelings is dangerous, 
because it leads precisely to the search for a Fuhrer or leader. Between the 
notions of integration and Fuhrer there are many hidden links. 

In today's society we often resent the bureaucratic system, and with 
more right than Weber. What Weber may still teach us, though, is that any 
dream of a return to the communal instead of the associative may be quite 
ambiguous. Any effort to reconstruct society as a big commune may have 
either ultra-leftist or ultra-rightist consequences: anarchism or fascism. 
The oscillation of the concept of Gemeinschaft between these two poles 
may be typical of its character and requires at the very least some vigilance. 
This does not mean that nothing is needed and nothing is lost in the mere 
associative link — for example, the sense of participation in a common work . 
The kind of analysis of ideology initiated by Geertz might, in fact, be one 

Weber (i) 

way to reestablish the positive dimensions of Gemeinschaft. The consti- 
tutive character of ideology may play a significant role, because as Weber 
acknowledges, the "existence of common qualities" — race, even lan- 
guage — is alone not enough to generate "a commuhal social relationship" 
(42; emphasis added). 

A second intermediary concept after the types of social connection is the 
degree of a group's closure (43 ff.). This concept is also important for a 
possible theory of ideology based on Weber, because the problem of a 
group's identity is linked to the existence of limits — territorial or other — 
regarding who does and who does not belong. The rules of affiliation and 
therefore of exclusion are significant for the constitution of a group's 
identity. Once again Geertz may offer a contribution here, because his 
notion of ideology as a cultural system may be related to the preservation 
of social identity. Since I am interested more in Weber's conceptual frame- 
work than in his content, what is noteworthy at this point is that we cannot 
define even the concept of closure in mechanical terms. While it may seem 
that the closure of a figure is something material, the concept is also 
motivational: "The principal motives for closure of a relationship are: (a) 
The maintenance of quality . . . ; (b) the contraction of advantages in 
relation to consumption needs . . . ; (c) the growing scarcity of opportu- 
nities for acquisition" (46; emphasis added). Even the concept of closure 
must be defined within a motivational system. 

The next concept introduces the distinction within some closed groups 
between those who are the rulers and those who are the ruled; order is 
enforced by a specific segment of these groups. This type is decisive for 
Weber because it inserts into the analysis of order the concept of power. 
We may conceive of an order which has no hierarchy; many Utopias have 
the notion of an ordered common life in which all roles are equal. Once 
we introduce, however, a distinction between the one who rules and the 
rest of the group, a polarization between ruler and ruled, we also introduce 
a certain kind of political structure. Weber calls this type an organization 
(Verband). This type does not coincide with the distinction between Ge- 
meinschaft and Gesellschaft, since the latter involve the nature of the link — 
internal or exterior — between individuals, while here the important con- 
cept is hierarchy. A hierarchical structure is introduced into the collective 
body. "A social relationship which is either closed or limits the admission 
of outsiders will be called an organization (Verband) when its regulations 
are enforced by specific individuals: a chief and, possibly, an administrative 


Weber (i) 

staff, which normally also has representative powers" (48). We are able to 
distinguish the governing body as a distinctive layer within the group. 

With this concept of the ruling body, we have the notion of an order 
which is now enforced. (In Weber the concept of the ruling body comes 
before that of the ruling class, although for our purposes it is the very 
notion of ruling which is significant.) It is not the group as a whole which 
provides for its organization; instead, there are those in the position of 
enforcing order and those who are submitted to this order. The concrete 
problems of legitimacy proceed from this division of labor between ruler 
and ruled; a possible concept of ideology is prepared by the necessity of 
legitimating enforcement of the governing body's rules. Weber insists 
strongly on the concept of enforcement, which is contemporaneous with 
this polarization between ruler and ruled. "This criterion is decisive be- 
cause it is not merely a matter of action which is oriented to an order, but 
which is specifically directed to its enforcement" (48 ; emphasis in original) . 
A specific kind of action now exists which is oriented not to the action of 
others but to the system of enforcement: to obey, to follow the rules, even 
if the requirements of this system may sometimes be mild — stopping our 
car at a red light, for example. We have not established the rule, but we 
are oriented to the system that enforces it. Some might argue that it is in 
our own interest to accept the rule — we feel safer if there are regulations 
on the road — but we must recognize that this becomes one of the motives 
for legitimating the order and its enforcement powers. 

Not every form of a closed communal or associative relationship is an 
organization. As Weber points out, we do not call an organization either 
an erotic relationship or a kinship group without a leader (48-49). The 
key notion, then, is the formalized system of authority. For me, this 
reinforces the idea that in fact the conflict between ideology and Utopia is 
always displayed at this level. What is at stake in all ideology is finally the 
legitimation of a certain system of authority; what is at stake in all Utopia 
is the imagining of an alternate way to use power. A Utopia, for example, 
may want the group to be ruled without hierarchy or by giving power to 
the wisest (as in Plato's solution, the philosopher-king). Whatever the 
Utopia's definition of authority, it attempts to provide alternate solutions 
to the existing system of power. The function of ideology, on the other 
hand, is always to legitimate the given, the actual system of rule or 

In his consideration of the concept of enforcement, Weber's contention 

Weber (i) 

J 93 

is that we have no example of a society without some element of enforced 
rules. It is implausible that any form of governance will satisfy everyone. 
There are differences not only in interest but in age (those who are more 
directed toward the values of the past) and so on. The presumption that 
the minority will submit to the majority reintroduces the element of coer- 
cion. Only in a unanimous group would there seem to be noncoercion, but 
actually this could be the most coercive group. The law of unanimity is 
always more dangerous than the law of majority, because at least in the 
latter we may identify the minority and define its rights. If we claim to 
work on the basis of unanimity, then those who are not as unanimous as 
the others lose all their rights, since their rights are not denned. To use 
Orwell's imagery, we might say that in 1791 all the French were equal, 
except some were more equal than others; and these others were sent to 
the guillotine. As for Weber himself, he discusses the imposition of order 
in relation not to unanimity but majority rule. 

[A]n order is always "imposed" to the extent that it does not originate from a 
voluntary personal agreement of all the individuals concerned. The concept of 
imposition hence includes "majority rule," in that the minority must submit. For 
that reason there have been long periods when the legitimacy of majority rule has 
either not been recognized at all, or been held doubtful. (51) 

Weber credits those who have some reservations about majority rule, 
because they recognize that it is another kind of violence, more subtle 
perhaps but still violence, especially since there are no rules for establishing 
the rule of the majority. Even "voluntary" agreement implies an amount 
of imposition. We see that in all electoral systems, because some trick is 
always available to gain the desired response from the electorate, either by 
dividing it or by establishing some procedure that allows the system to 
prevail over its critics. At this stage of his presentation, though, Weber 
does not take the question of the imposition of order as far as I have here. 
Rather, he says once again, "This will be further discussed in the Sociology 
of Law and of Domination" (51). What I have attempted to do is pick out 
most of the passages where the problem of authority is constituted in its 
basic condition. 

In his discussion of the nature of order, the main concepts Weber has 
introduced are those of the associative or integrative link, the group's 
closure, and the group's hierarchy. In turn, the concept of hierarchy has 
included a relation of imperative structure. Only at this point does Weber 

Weber (i) 

introduce Herrschaft as a full-fledged concept; it is the relation between 
command and obedience. While some translators, Parsons in particular 
translate Herrschaft by authority or imperative control, I prefer the present 
edition's translation of Herrschaft as "domination." The issues are clearer 
if we say "domination." " 'Domination' (Herrschaft) is the probability that 
a command with a given specific content will be obeyed by a given group 
of persons" (53). Herrschaft is defined by the expectation of others' obe- 
dience. The system of power has a certain credibility, and this allows it to 
count on the behavior of its members. When police officers go into the 
street, they expect that everyone will submit their behavior to them. Obe- 
dience is a result not only of the officers' power — their ability to carry out 
their will, even to kill — it is also a result of people's belief in their function. 
The problem to which Weber addresses himself is how some people are in 
a position of successfully issuing orders to others. The probability that we 
will follow the rules itself constitutes the domination. This situation is not 
so far from Hegel's master/slave relation; the slave believes that the master 
is the real figure of human being not only because he or she as slave is the 
weaker but because he or she believes in the humanity of the master. 

The last stage in Weber's development of the concept of order is reached 
when he introduces the possibility of physical force. Weber maintains that 
by adding to the concepts previously enumerated the threat of the legitimate 
use of force, we arrive at the definition of the state. The state's structure 
of power depends on its upholding "the claim to the monopoly of the 
legitimate use of physical force in the enforcement of its order" (54; 
emphasis in original). (Note the concept of claim, "the claim to the mo- 
nopoly . . . ," introduced here.) This is a pessimistic concept of the state, 
but Weber was not at all a romanticist. In a sense, this definition is not so 
far from Lenin's. In State and Revolution, Lenin said that the state is not 
defined by its goals but by its means, and its means is coercion. Weber 
speaks similarly: 

It is not possible to define a political organization, including the state, in terms of 
the end to which its action is devoted. . . .Thus it is possible to define the "political" 
character of an organization only in terms of the means peculiar to it, the use of 
force. This means is, however, in the above sense specific, and is indispensable to 
its character. It is even, under certain circumstances, elevated into an end in itself. 
(55 ; emphasis in original) 

Examples of the use of force becoming an end in itself include situations 
of emergency and war. Whatever the resemblance between Weber's and 

Weber (i) 

l 95 

Lenin's definition of the state, though, the remaining difference is that for 
Weber the coercion of the state is finally sustained not by its physical power 
but by our response of belief to its claim of legitimacy. To put this in the 
language of Plato, we might say that what enables the state's domination 
is more its sophistic or rhetorical structure than its sheer force. Neverthe- 
less, we must still insist on the fact that the state is defined by the recourse 
to force. The state has the last word in terms of force. It can put us in jail, 
while no other group legally can. It is legal for the state finally to use 
violence. Only with the introduction of the role of force is the concept of 
domination complete. Only then is the concept of claim, the claim to 
legitimacy, also complete. We must understand the concept of claim not 
only when there is an order but when there are rulers, rulers who may use 
force as a last resort. 

The troublesome nature of the claim to legitimacy demonstrates why 
the scope of the question of legitimacy is so easily maneuvered down to the 
level of politics. It is true, by and large, that the question of claim is a 
political one. Yet this question is not simply political, in the narrow sense 
of the term, for two reasons. First, we must recognize the problematic of 
legitimate order which rules that of political domination through the in- 
termediary notion of the organization, the compulsory association, the 
differentiation between ruler and ruled. If by chance the state should die, 
it is not certain that the problem of legitimate order would disappear. The 
role of ideology persists. The second reason why legitimacy is not simply 
a matter of politics, of force, is that we cannot get rid of the motivational 
framework, because it is only within this framework that the question of 
the claim to legitimacy makes sense. 

Our analysis of Weber's categories of political order has laid the ground- 
work for our discussion in the next lecture of the ideological structure of 
the system of legitimacy. To conclude I would like to spend a bit more 
time analyzing the nature of Weber's interpretive structure. Marxists would 
object to Weber's schema because not only is class not a leading concept, 
it does not even belong to the fundamental concepts. The imposition of 
order is a structural trait which is not necessarily linked to class struggle. 
Here is the anti-Marxist tendency of Weber. His definitions are intended 
to encompass any group, whether in a class or in a potentially classless 
society. Weber advances an atemporal analysis of some fundamental ques- 
tions; his typology attempts to be transhistorical. His framework is sup- 
posedly valid for any society, from the pre-Columbian to the modern. The 


Weber (i) 

Marxist response would be precisely that history is excluded from Weber's 
approach; this is particularly indicated by Weber's exclusion of the concept 
of class, because history, the Marxists would say, came about with the 
history of classes. I think Weber would defend his orientation by arguing 
that history is not essential for defining the fundamental structure of 
society. He would agree with Marxists that we are now in a society in which 
the class structure is decisive, but he would maintain that this historical 
circumstance does not affect the main structure of society. The proof of 
this is that if classes are eliminated or if the ruling role of the bourgeoisie 
disappears, the same problems of norms, regulations, and so on will arise 
in a classless society. 

I see two possible attacks on Weber by those who would argue that his 
ideal types are too ahistorical. The first claim is that the variety of historical 
situations is so great that we must proceed at a more grassroots level. For 
example, American sociologists typically proceed in a more localized and 
descriptive manner. They are reluctant to deal with the concept of order 
as a global entity. They would call Weber's concepts too Platonistic. A 
rather different kind of criticism would come from those who see sociolog- 
ical analysis as a critical tool. Post-Marxists like Habermas argue that the 
task is not so much to describe as to unmask. In Weber's defense, though, 
I wonder whether we can either describe concretely or criticize without a 
certain conceptual network with which to handle the phenomena we are 
studying. Our definitions may be partly conventional — "I call an organi- 
zation this and that" — but they also allow us to identify situations in such 
a way that we may have discussions about notions like power that are 
meaningful in different historical and cultural circumstances. We must first 
understand the structures in which we live. 

My conviction, finally, is that historicity may have been emphasized too 
much; for there may be societal structures just as there are linguistic 
structures. Chomsky has shown that there is more permanence in semantic 
structures than Benjamin Lee Whorf and others allowed. There may be a 
certain permanence in social structures also. The political problematic may 
have a greater permanence than something like economic structures, which 
are more historically bound. A certain universality in the problematic of 
power allows us to identify a problem when we read political authors of 
the past. Aristotle's biology may be completely obsolete, but when he 
speaks of democracy and oligarchy we are still able to identify the same 
figures. When we read Plato on the tyrant, we understand. In politics we 

Weber (i) 


always make the same mistakes, and this may be because we have to do 
with questions that are very repetitious: the use of power, the use of lies 
by those in power, and so on. Marxists are right when they argue that we 
exclude history when we exclude classes. Weber's response is that class 
structure, historical as it may be, does not change fundamentally the 
problem of how human groups should be ruled. The Egyptians, the Incas, 
and the Chinese all confront the same problems. Perhaps it is a bias on my 
part, but to justify the lack of a historical dimension in Max Weber, I 
would say that he addresses himself to what is the less historical in the 
structure of human societies because he relies on a certain identity of 

It is true that Weber's ideal types take on a certain perspective. What 
speaks through his types is the ideal of the German liberal intellectual 
before Nazism. The types are culturally situated; as we shall see, they 
express a strong confidence in the legal-bureaucratic state. Our objection, 
through, cannot be that the kind of state favored by these types is in fact 
what failed in Germany. We must distinguish between a failure that is a 
fault of the structure and one that arises because people stopped believing 
in the structure. The structure's claim to legitimacy requires a correspond- 
ing belief on the part of the citizenry. Where this response to the state is 
lacking, where people want instead a leader, a Fuhrer, then a democracy 
is dead no matter what the extent of its own structural problems. Evident 
is a kind of disease in the belief supporting the claim. This would be 
Weber's argument, I think. Nevertheless, it is still the case that Weber's 
ideal types are characterized by a certain ranking. As we shall discuss, 
Weber proceeds from what he calls the most rational toward the less 
rational, from the legal form of legitimacy to the traditional form and then 
to the charismatic. The charismatic is defined by its lack of rationality. 
Therefore, there is in Weber a prejudice toward rationality. Perhaps we 
can reconcile Weber's perspectival orientation with his notion of permanent 
societal structures by arguing that the structures are indeed permanent but 
their formulation, description, and interpretation remain the product of 
more situated points of view. 


Weber (2) 

At the beginning of the last lecture, I mentioned that we address ourselves 
to Max Weber at this stage of our inquiry in order to meet two main 
difficulties in the Marxist theory of ideology. The first concerns the general 
conceptual framework of the Marxist approach, which is structured in 
more or less causal terms through the notions of infrastructure and super- 
structure. My claim was that an alternate, motivational model could be 
derived from Weber's work, and this is what we unfolded in the last session. 
The second strength of Weber is that within his motivational framework 
we can make more sense of the notion of ruling ideas being expressed by a 
ruling class. To defend this claim is the task now at hand. I approach 
Weber, therefore, not to treat him as an anti-Marxist but as one who 
provides a better conceptual framework for integrating some important 
Marxist ideas. We must consider Marx's ideas with the same critical atten- 
tion that we give any other thinker; in so doing, we resist the intellectual 
blackmail imposed on us either by Marxists or by anti-Marxists. No one 
asks us whether we are Cartesian when we speak of Descartes or Spinozist 
when we speak of Spinoza. We take the good where we find it, and this 
has been my own aim. The motivational model I have presented is an 
alternate model to Marxism, but it is presented in order to deal with a 
Marxist problem. 

The current lecture's discussion of Weber's concept and typology of 
legitimacy should make this orientation even more apparent. Our focus is 
the third chapter of Economy and Society, "The Types of Legitimate 
Domination." This section of the work was anticipated several times in the 
previous lecture, at each point that Weber presented the notion of a claim. 
As we saw, Weber's concept of claim develops in three main stages. A 

Weber ( 2 ) 


claim is implied first in the very concept of Ordnung. This notion does not 
mean compulsory order but an ordering that gives a shape, a gestalt, a 
pattern to a group. This order already involves a question of belief, because 
it consists of individuals orienting themselves to the behavior of others. 
Everything must be expressed in terms of the mutual orientation of indi- 
viduals, and the inscription of this claim in the motivational field of each 
individual is a belief. In Weber's vocabulary the word usually used to 
describe this notion is Vorstellung. Translation of Vorstellung by "belief" 
is limited, particularly since the emotional aspect of belief predominates. 
Vorstellung is not so much belief as representation. A Vorstellung is each 
individual's representation of the order. The order exists more as an intel- 
lectual representation than as an emotional belief. 

The notion of claim takes on a more radical and more cogent meaning 
when we shift from the general concept of Ordnung to the notion of an 
order which implies a differentation between rulers and ruled. Here, as we 
observed, we are on the way to the definition of the state, since the state is 
precisely one of those structures in which we may identify and distinguish 
formally the decision-making layer of the organization. This hierarchy 
need not belong only to the state, however; it can be found within a school 
system, a church, a sports organization, or wherever certain specified 
people are in charge of making decisions and implementing them. Present 
is not only an order but an implemented or imposed order. The concept 
of imposition injects an element of conflict between wills. The notion of 
claim must then incorporate not only recognition of who we are but obe- 
dience to the one who rules. 

The third step taken in the development of the concept of claim intro- 
duces the notion of the threat of the use of force. For Weber this is the 
distinctive trait of the state among all other institutions. The state, Weber 
says, has a claim to the monopoly of the ultimate legitimate use of violent 
force against the recalcitrant individual or group. In the criminal and penal 
laws of a given society it is finally the state which enforces the decision of 
the judge; the state ensures both the decision's finality and its implemen- 
tation. The distinctive character of the state may be recognized exactly 
here. Thus to summarize, we have three stages in the concept of claim: 
the claim of an order in general, the claim of a ruling group within an 
organization, and the claim of those in power to have the capacity to 
implement order by the use of force. 

In approaching the texts for the present lecture, my hypothesis is that 


Weber (2) 

the problem of ideology is raised at least in principle when we confront the 
claim to legitimacy with the belief in legitimacy. Weber provides us a more 
meaningful conceptual framework for examining this problem than Marxist 
theory, but unfortunately he does not treat the problem of ideology himsel f 
It is puzzling why we have in Weber a good conceptual framework and vet 
the question of ideology is absent. He provides the tools for dealing with 
ideology and yet makes no allusions to this issue. One reason for this lacuna 
may be suggested by what we need to add to Weber's framework, something 
fundamental that is available only in Marxism, the notion of a ruling class. 
Weber speaks only of the notion of a ruling group in general. Perhaps 
Weber's systematic avoidance of class in his list of basic concepts explains 
his strange silence on the problem of ideology as such. 1 We shall return to 
this question at the end of the lecture. 

What particularly strikes me in Weber's presentation of the concept and 
typology of legitimacy is that the question of belief is introduced as some- 
thing supplementary, something not founded. For me the place of ideology 
lies in the empty space of this concept. When Weber speaks of claim, its 
construction is coherent, but when he speaks of belief, it is only supple- 
mental. There is a discrepancy between the status granted to claim and 
that granted to belief. Evidence of this disparity appears on the first pages 
of the chapter on legitimacy. Weber discusses the many motives for obe- 
dience. "[CJustom, personal advantage, purely affectual or ideal motives 
of solidarity," he says, "do not form a sufficiently reliable basis for a given 
dominaton. In addition there is normally a further element, the belief in 
legitimacy" (213; emphasis added). It is the phrase "in addition" which 
attracted my attention. The belief in legitimacy is not the result of the 
factors mentioned but something more. This something more is what 
intrigues me. The nature of this "addition" receives no specific treatment 
in Weber, since as we shall see, he returns to the typology of the claim. 
Weber assumes that the typology of the claim is reflected in the typology 
of the belief, in spite of the fact that the belief is an addition, something 

Some might argue that Weber's use of the phrase "in addition" was said 
by chance. Yet Weber returns to the phrase in the next paragraph. "Ex- 
perience shows that in no instance does domination voluntarily limit itself 
to the appeal to material or affectual or ideal motives as a basis for its 
continuance. In addition every such system attempts to establish and to 
cultivate the belief in its legitimacy" (213; emphasis added). Here is the 

Weber ( 2 ) 

20 1 

empty place of a theory of ideology in Max Weber. Weber indicates in the 
quotation that the knowledge expressed about the belief in legitimacy is 
based on experience, as though we cannot derive this factor from the basic 
concepts which have been elaborated so accurately. The belief in legitimacy 
is a supplement which must be treated as a mere fact, since it is derived 
from experience. We have no other way, he thinks, of comprehending how 
systems of authority work. Beliefs contribute something beyond what 
sociologists understand to be the role of motivation. 

I wonder whether it is not because this supplement of belief is opaque 
that Max Weber chooses to "classify the types of domination according to 
the kind of claim to legitimacy typically made by each" (213; emphasis 
added). The typology is provided by the claim, not by the belief. The 
belief adds something more, which allows the claim to be accepted, 
assumed, or taken for granted by those submitted to its order. It is here 
that I graft my own hypothesis concerning the whole problem of the role 
of belief in relation to claim. I state my hypothesis in three points. First, 
can we not say that the problem of ideology concerns precisely this sup- 
plement, this gap between claim and belief, the fact that there must be 
something more in the belief than can be rationally understood in terms of 
interests, whether emotional, customary, or rational? Second, is it not the 
function of ideology to fill in this credibility gap? If this is the case, then 
third do we not need to elaborate a concept of surplus-value, now linked 
not so much to work as to power? Marx elaborated a theory of surplus- 
value to explain why a good in the market has more value than the amount 
paid to the worker who made it. The difference between what the worker 
is paid and what the good is worth is the surplus-value (the Mehrwert) 
produced by the worker and stolen by the employer in order to provide 
capital with the appearance of productivity. All Marxism relies on the fact 
that capital has an appearance of productivity which is in fact derived from 
the worker's productivity but is no longer recognized as such. Marx calls 
this transfer of productivity from work to capital the fetishism of commod- 
ities. We have the impression that money produces something, that there 
exists a productivity of things, whereas what really exists is only the 
productivity of people. My question is whether we do not need to elaborate 
a parallel theory of surplus-value no longer in relation to work but to power. 

If this third part of my hypothesis is correct, it can explain what happens 
in socialist societies, where the Marxist surplus-value is more or less sup- 
pressed but the surplus- value in terms of power is not. Systems of authority 


Weber ( 2 ) 

are superimposed on a socialist system of production, but the system of 
power stays exactly the same. Perhaps, then, there are several sources of 
surplus-value, not only an economic source of surplus-value but also one 
related to the source of authority or power. At least this is the hypothesis 
that* I propose. We can formulate this hypothesis in general by saying that 
there is always more in the claim of a given system of authority than the 
normal course of motivation can satisfy, and therefore there is always a 
supplement of belief provided by an ideological system. This framework 
allows us to make sense of a position like Althusser's, when he says that 
the state is not only, as Lenin claimed, a system of coercion but is also an 
ideological apparatus. Although Althusser's own terms for this are mech- 
anistic, the ideological apparatus is the supplement to the coercive functon 
of the state and more generally the supplement to the functioning of 
institutions in civil society as a whole. 

We must therefore read Weber's chapter on the types of legitimacy with 
a certain reservation. We shall try to see what is lacking in his typology of 
claims that prevents its transposition into a typology of beliefs. By this 
difference we shall obtain the concept of ideology missing in the text itself. 
Our reading is oriented, which I do not deny. We are looking for something 
that is not in the text, and so must read between the lines. We shall see 
that the problem of belief keeps returning in a system which starts as a 
classification of claims and not a classification of beliefs. The question of 
belief persists because we cannot speak of legitimacy without speaking of 
grounds and grounds refer to beliefs. A ground is both a ground and a 
motive. It is a motive, to use the language of Elizabeth Anscombe, func- 
tioning as a reason for. 

The most auspicious place to look for Weber's view of the role of belief 
is in his famous typology of the three kinds of claims to legitimacy. While 
Weber has already stated that he classifies the types of domination according 
to their claims, in fact the classification proceeds on the basis of beliefs. 
Note that Weber presents the typology not in terms of the claims themselves 
but in terms of the validity of these claims. Validity is a question addressed 
to those submitted to these claims and therefore rests on the belief in the 

There are three pure types of legitimate domination. The validity of the claims 
to legitimacy may be based on : 

i. Rational grounds — resting on a belief in the legality of patterns of enacted 

Weber (2) 


rules and the right of those elevated to authority under such rules to issue commands 
(legal authority). 

2. Traditional grounds — resting on an established belief in the sanctity of im- 
memorial traditions and the legitimacy of those exercising authority under them 
(traditional authority) ; or finally, 

3. Charismatic grounds — resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, hero- 
ism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns 
or order revealed or ordained by him (charismatic authority). (215; emphases 

In his typology the notion of ground returns three times and three times 
with it the notion of belief. The word is not uttered in the third case, but 
when we speak of devotion, this is typically belief. In order to elaborate a 
system-of claims, then, we have to look at the counterpart system of belief, 
whether a belief in an impersonal order according to rules, a belief based 
on personal loyalty, or a belief in the leadership of the prophet or chief. 

The phenomenon of belief is the most prominent in the third type, 
because we immediately recognize its religious origin. The concept of 
charisma means the gift of grace and is taken, says Weber, from the 
vocabulary of early Christianity (216). As the typology alerts us, though, 
it would be wrong to assume that the problem of belief exists only in the 
cases of charismatic authority or traditional authority. For even legality 
relies on belief. We shall spend the rest of the lecture tracing the surplus- 
value of belief to claim in each of the three types of domination, and we 
shall begin with legal authority. 

The last lecture already indicated one reason why legality rests on belief. 
If we assume the existence of an honest system of representation — some 
electoral system, for example — the rule of the majority is the rule of the 
whole, and the problem for the minority is to accept this rule. The minority 
must have some confidence, some trust, in the rule of the majority. Even 
the majority must trust that majority rule and not a false, pretended, or 
claimed unanimity is the best way to govern. An element of agreement is 
present of the kind expressed in classical contract theory. Ideology has a 
role here as the necessary supplement to the contract. "Legal authority 
rests on the acceptance of the validity of the following mutually inter- 
dependent ideas" (217; emphasis added) . Acceptance is the belief on which 
legality lies. Acceptance is a form of recognition; once again "belief" is too 
narrow to cover the Vorstellung of the German. 

Weber presents a series of five criteria on which legal authority depends. 


Weber ( 2 ) 

I shall cite only part of the first criterion and summarize the other four, 
"i. That any given legal norm may be established by agreement or by 
imposition, on grounds of expedience of value-rationality or both, with a 
claim to obedience at least on the part of the members of the organization" 
(2V7; emphasis added). The notion of claim must be introduced in relation 
to legal authority, because we cannot grant legality to a system simply on 
account of its formal structure. The legality of a structure cannot be 
assumed, for its legality is what is in question. A legal norm must make 
appeal to interests or personal commitments, and a commitment to the 
system has the nature of a belief corresponding to a claim. Weber's other 
criteria for legal authority concern the fact that the rules must be consistent , 
usually intentionally established, and the product of an impersonal order. 
Persons in authority are themselves subject to the impersonal order and 
govern according to its rules, not their own inclinations; people do not owe 
obedience to authorities as individuals but as representatives of the imper- 
sonal order. All relationships are depersonalized. What we must recognize 
for our purposes is that the system is formalized, but the system also 
requires our belief in this formalization. 

If asked to consider at greater length what is ideological in this system 
of rules, I would raise three points. First, the fact that even legal authority 
requires its subjects' belief confirms that authority is best understood within 
a motivational model. This alerts us that there may be a positive meaning 
of ideology which we must retrieve if we are to comprehend adequately 
the nature of legitimacy. Discussion of this nonpejorative meaning of 
ideology will be the focus of the lecture on Geertz. 

A second, more negative ideological aspect of a system of rules is that 
any system of formalization may be pretended, and this may serve to cover 
for an organization's real practice. We must measure an authority's real 
practice over against its alleged system of rules, but Weber says nothing 
about this problem. We cannot take for granted the declaration of a system 
of power that it relies on a particular set of rules. The problem is the 
discrepancy between its practice and the alleged rules. A given form of 
authority may comply in appearance with Weber's criteria, precisely to use 
in a more efficient way another kind of power. An example of this which 
Marx unmasked is the use of the contractual relation to cover the real wage 
relationship between capital and labor. The contract model maintains that 
the relationship between worker and employer is no longer one of slave 
and master, because both parties are juridically equal: one provides work, 

Weber ( 2 ) 


the other provides money. Because the participation of each party in the 
wage relationship is said to be free and equal, the relationship is thus said 
to be a contract. The formal structure of the wage hides the real nature of 
the relation of forces underlying it. We must take seriously, then, the 
accusation by Marxists against what they call with some contempt — and 
surely too much contempt — formal freedom. Marxists argue that they are 
interested in real freedom and not the formal freedom of capitalistic sys- 
tems. This contempt of formality can itself be a justification for violence, 
though, so both sides may be in some sense hypocritical. Nevertheless, the 
important point here is the possibility of an ideological use of a formal 
system by the pretense of a legal course that in fact covers a different kind 
of course altogether. 

The third source of ideology in a system of rules may be not so much 
the hypocritical use of formalism but the advocacy of formalism itself. The 
belief in formalism has become a much greater issue since Weber's day. 
We have less confidence than Weber in bureaucratic procedures. For Weber 
the bureaucracy's depersonalization of all relations acted to protect the 
individual's rights. There is something to that, and some critiques of 
bureaucracy fail to recognize the advantages of an abstract system of role 
relations. Where all relations are personal, the system is one of hatred and 
love. In his attention to a system's means, though, Weber loses sight of its 
goals and the underlying beliefs which suport it. Note the following char- 
acterization : "The purest type of exercise of legal authority is that which 
employs a bureaucratic administrative staff (220). Legal authority is iden- 
tified merely by the means that it "employs." My hypothesis is that this 
shift of interest from the underlying belief to the technical means prevents 
Weber from developing a theory of ideology about how belief supports the 
bureaucratic system. Weber's question is how does an administrative staff 
work, what -are the rules of its employment by a legal authority? I do not 
consider it unfair to Weber to say that because he identifies with the most 
rational type of authority, he looks to what is the most rational in its 
support, and that may be found not in beliefs but in bureaucratic tools. A 
theory of means takes the place of an investigation into motivation, despite 
the fact that Weber begins his investigation with a system of motivations. 
The system of motivations is dropped in order to look at the most abstract 
functioning of an administrative staff. 

Weber is the first to discuss the nature of bureaucracy in this analytical 
manner, the first to introduce a sociology of bureaucratic institutions. A 


Weber (2) 

bureaucracy has a clearly defined hierarchy of officers, the sphere of com- 
petence is defined, the system of selection and promotion is public, and so 
on. None of these rules has anything to do with belief. Weber does not 
take into account that his depiction of bureaucracy as the most rational and 
thetef ore the best form of organization is itself a belief ; his enterprise is 
attuned rather to description alone. As a result, Weber does not reflect on 
the diseases of the bureaucratic state, problems so important for Marcuse 
and others. The repressive implications of a rationalist system are not 
considered. For me, Weber's lack of reflection on this point betrays the 
failure to elaborate the problem of ideology, which affects all systems from 
the most rational to the least. Rules too may hide some less laudable 
practices: arbitrariness, hidden cooptation, autonomization of the admin- 
istrative body, and irresponsibility in the name of obedience to the system. 
Here we must read Hannah Arendt on the authoritarian state. All those 
like Eichmann who were accused of killing Jews in Germany defended 
themselves by saying that they obeyed orders, that they were good officers. 
The administrative system, then, may not only deprive the individual of 
personal responsibility, it may even cover up crimes committed in the name 
of the administrative good. Also troublesome are the size of present ad- 
ministrative bodies and the anonymity of organizational relationships. The 
latter in particular has led to the diffusion of anonymity in society at large. 
Something in the human texture is harmed. 

In Weber there are only two or three allusions to these problems, and 
they are all the more precious because they are so few. Here the repressed 
side of the problematic briefly appears. 

The question is always who controls the existing bureaucratic machinery. And 
such control is possible only in a very limited degree to persons who are not technical 
specialists. Generally speaking, the highest-ranking career official is more likely to 
get his way in the long run than his nominal superior, the cabinet minister, who is 
not a specialist. (224) 

Yes, the question is who controls the bureaucratic machinery; the average 
citizen is said not to be competent to discuss these matters. The specialists 
supposedly know better than we do. The citizen is placed into a kind of 
exterritoriality by the technicality of the bureaucratic machinery. The 
technocrats may take hold of the political machine because of the incom- 
petence of politicians. Sometimes this may be good, because the specialists 
may be more rational about matters than the politicians, but no one knows 
who finally controls these technocrats. 

Weber ( 2 ) 


The rise of bureaucracy also creates other difficulties. Weber notes the 
connection between bureaucracy and the capitalist system. The develop- 
ment of bureaucracy, he says, 

largely under capitalistic auspices, has created an urgent need for stable, strict, 
intensive, and calculable administration. It is this need which is so fateful to any 
kind of large-scale administration. Only by reversion in every field — political, 
religious, economic, etc. — to small-scale organization would it be possible to any 
considerable extent to escape its influence. (224) 

The attempt to lower the level of bureaucracy, to put it closer to the 
citizenry, is a central issue in modern Utopias. The growing distance 
between the bureaucratic machinery and the individual is a problem itself. 
Weber adds that this problem is not attributable to capitalism alone. A 
socialist system does not by definition solve the issue any better. After 
seeing the experience of centralized socialism, we know that the need to 
decentralize the bureaucracy is present there too. A socialist form of or- 
ganization, says Weber, does not alter the need for effective bureaucratic 
administration. Weber's question is only "whether in a socialistic system it 
would be possible to provide conditions for carrying out as stringent a 
bureaucratic organization as has been possible in a capitalistic order." We 
now know the answer: the possibility is actually more likely. 

For socialism would, in fact, require a still higher degree of formal bureaucratization 
than capitalism. If this should prove not to be possible, it would demonstrate the 
existence of another of those fundamental elements of irrationality in social sys- 
tems — a conflict between formal and substantive rationality of the sort which 
sociology so often encounters. (225) 

Not only does bureaucratization have repressive aspects, but the most 
rational system has an irrationality of its own. This is a most important 
observation. Any attempt to perpetuate the claim of rationality in.the midst 
of the bureaucracy's repressive and irrational qualities requires the presence 
of belief. Weber interprets irrationality here as the conflict between formal 
and substantive rationality. A formalized system is independent of individ- 
uals, whereas substantive rationality has a more Hegelian tone; it is the 
Geist, the substance of the group or community, which wants to understand 
itself. Formalized systems, on the other hand, are opaque in terms of the 
roles they allow to and the meaning they offer for individual and collective 
life. This is the place where belief does not correspond to claim, because 


Weber (2) 

the claim to rationality is overshadowed by a cloud of irrationality which 
the belief has to get through. 

Most of the examples I have just cited about the diseases of bureaucracy 
are merely alluded to in Weber's work. He more explicitly describes the 
limit of his analysis in the case of one particular criterion of bureaucracy, 
that of free selection. In the pure type of legal authority, Weber says, "The 
office is filled by a free contractual relationship. Thus, in principle, there 
is free selection" (220). Yet Weber recognizes that in the capitalistic system 
there is something fundamental which escapes free selection: the selection 
of the owners of capital. The owners of capital are not selected by the 
system based on their technical qualifications; instead, they achieve their 
positions on their own. The economic body of a capitalist system escapes 
the rationality of the bureaucratic state and relies instead on another form 
of rationality, that of profit. To the extent that the capitalistic entrepeneur 
is not freely selected and also has the power to lobby and influence political 
decisions, this top of the administrative staff is not so much administrative 
as political. Since the owners of capital influence political leaders, the 
capitalistic hierarchy also becomes entangled with the political hierarchy. 
"There is no question but that the 'position' of the capitalistic entrepreneur 
is a definitively appropriated as is that of a monarch." The capitalist 
enterprise has a monarchic structure at the top, which is quite discordant 
with the claim of democracy in the political sphere. "Thus at the top of a 
bureaucratic organization, there is necessarily an element which is at least 
not purely bureaucratic. The category of bureaucracy is one applying only 
to the exercise of control by means of a particular kind of administrative 
staff" (222). Instead of being the organizational structure of the whole, 
bureaucratic rationality is a limited rationality functioning within a system 
that follows quite different rules. These problems will be picked up by 
Habermas and other post-Marxists. They will discuss the fact that tech- 
nology itself may function ideologically; we see only the empty place for 
that discussion in Weber. 

I wonder whether the weak point in Weber's analysis of the legal type is 
that the issue of domination is reduced to the problem of the employment 
of a bureaucratic administrative staff. The persisting role of domination is 
then not scrutinized with the same accuracy as the system's rules. Weber 
fails to appreciate sufficiently that the nature of domination is not exhausted 
by the bureaucracy's privileged means. As we have just seen, Weber ne- 
glects to incorporate into his analysis the political dimension, which tends 
to be absorbed into a question of administration. Marxists would say that 

Weber ( 2 ) 

Weber has systematically bracketed the capitalistic aspects of political 
democracy and reduced them simply to issues concerning the techniques 
of power. The legal type is ideological to the extent that it uses formal 
bureaucratic efficiency to mask the real nature of the power at work. 

My own hypothesis is that the legal type remains a form of domination 
to the extent that it preserves something of the two other structures of 
claims and that legality serves to hide this residue of the traditional and 
the charismatic. It may be that the three types cannot be independently 
juxtaposed because they are always more or less intertwined with one 
another. This is not contrary to what Max Weber says in general about 
ideal types. Though he proposes three types, the distinctions are supposed 
to be only a way to disentangle significant connections. Nothing functions 
on the basis of one type alone ; all real systems of power imply, if in different 
proportions, elements of legality, traditionality, and the charismatic. In 
fact it may be that the legal type functions only on the basis of what remains 
from the traditional and charismatic types. This is one way of reading Max 
Weber. I do not claim that it is the best way, since Weber presents the 
three types and describes them separately according to different criteria. 
If my hypothesis deserves at least to be discussed, however, then it can be 
asked whether legal power does not hold on to some features of the tradi- 
tional and the charismatic in order to be power and not only legal. We have 
described what makes it legal, but what makes it a power may be finally 
borrowed always from the two other kinds of power. This is why we have 
to look carefully to the definition of the two other types. If it is true that 
they implicitly provide a certain opaqueness, they preserve this opaqueness 
even in the legal type. 

Let us turn, then, to Weber's definitions of the traditional and charis- 
matic types in order to ascertain their sources of power, elements which 
depend on our belief. As for the traditional type, "Authority will be called 
traditional if legitimacy is claimed for it and believed in by virtue of the 
sanctity of age-old rules and powers." The word "sanctity" is most impor- 
tant; it indicates that a quasi-religious element appears not only in the 
charismatic type but in the traditional type as well. In broad terms we may 
call it an ideological element. People believe that this order has a kind of 
sanctity; even if it does not deserve to be obeyed, even if it is not loved, at 
least it is revered. 

The masters are designated according to traditional rules and are obeyed because 
of their traditional status. This type of organized rule is, in the simplest case, 
primarily based on personal loyalty which results from a common upbringing. The 


Weber (2) 

person exercising authority is not a "superior," but a personal master. . . 

A network of more personalized relationships exists based on the belief 
that what comes from the past has more dignity than what is instituted in 
the present. There is a prejudice in favor of tradition, our ancestors, the 
weight of the past. 

What suggests my hypothesis that any kind of authority implies at least 
an element of traditionally is that a political body is governed not only by 
technical rules of efficiency but also by the way it identifies itself among 
other groups. As we shall see with Geertz, this may be the first function 
of an ideological system: to preserve the group's identity through time. A 
political community is a historical phenomenon. It is a cumulative process 
which reclaims something of its past and anticipates something of its future. 
A political body exists not only in the present but in the past and in the 
future, and its function is to connect past, present, and future. In a political 
community several generations exist at the same time ; the political choice 
is always an arbitration between the claims of these different generations, 
whereas a technical decision occurs only in the present and only according 
to the present system of tools. The political body has more memory and 
more expectations or hope than a technological system. The kind of ra- 
tionality implied by politics is thus more integrative in terms of the temporal 
dimension. The French philosopher Eric Weil has developed this contrast 
between technological and political rationality in his book Philosophie Po- 
litique (The Philosophy of Politics). Weil distinguishes between what in 
French is the rationnel and the raisonnable. Technology and economics 
have to be "rational," the technical connection between means and ends, 
whereas in politics rationality is the "reasonable," the capacity to integrate 
a whole. It is something other than to add one means to another. A strategy 
of means can be technological, but a political decision always implies 
something else, and this is more opaque. 

Unfortunately, though, when Weber discusses the functioning of a tra- 
ditional authority, he attends merely to its means, and only by comparison 
to the means of the legal state. Because of his emphasis on the bureaucratic 
instrument in the legal type, Weber analyzes the traditional type in terms 
of its technique in implementing order, rather than in terms of the moti- 
vation for belief in its rationality. Weber does not do what he claims — 
treat each type on its own basis — because he considers the traditional and 
the charismatic only by comparison to the legal and bureaucratic. We- 

Weber ( 2 ) 


ber's biases are evident in the strategy of his text, because he starts with 
the legal system, then proceeds to the traditional, and finally to the char- 
ismatic. He analyzes the rational first and then treats the others in order 
to uncover what by comparison they are lacking. He proceeds from the 
most rational to the less rational. The succession is not at all historical ; on 
the contrary, there is no doubt that the charismatic always precedes the 
traditional and the traditional the rational. The analysis proceeds in reverse 
historical order, which is the order of decreasing rationality. Weber puts 
into this description all his expectations about the nature of rationality in 

Evidence of this bias is patent in Weber's discussion of the traditional 
type. We see such phrases as: "In the pure type of traditional rule, the 
following features of a bureaucratic administrative staff are absent. . . ." 
"In place of a well-defined functional jurisdiction, there is a conflicting 
series of tasks and powers. ..." "The absence of distinct spheres of 
competence is evident . . ." (229). Weber treats traditionally by negative 
contrast. The problem of the underlying ideology of tradition escapes, 
because bureaucracy is the measure of comparison and it is itself analyzed 
in the least ideological way possible. Even within these narrow limitations, 
though, we may ask whether it is not the case that the more substantive 
qualities Weber observes in the traditional type — gerontocracy, patriar- 
chalism, patrimonialism, the personal appropriation of authority — always 
persist, even in a legal state. 

As for the charismatic type, our question is whether it is a type that has 
been overcome, or is it instead the hidden kernel of all power. Weber 
defines the charismatic authority in the following way : 

The term "charisma" will be applied to a certain quality of an individual personality 
by virtue of which he is considered extraordinary and treated as endowed with 
supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. 
These are such as are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of 
divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual concerned 
is treated as a "leader." (241) 

Because of its more supernatural qualities, it may seem that the charismatic 
authority has been superseded in today's world by the two other types of 
authority. As Hegel argues in the Philosophy of Right, however, there is 
always an element of decision-making in a system of power and this element 
is always personal to a certain degree (paragraph 273). Hegel expresses this 
within the framework of a monarchy, which exemplifies more clearly than 


Weber ( 2 ) 

any other system that the problem of the leader can never be completely 
excluded . Even in a democratic system like the British form of government , 
people vote for three things at the same time: a program, a party, and a 
leader. Therefore, we can never bracket completely the element of lead- 
ership, because politics is the place where decisions are made for the whole. 
The necessity of decision-making preserves, at least as a residual element, 
the charismatic. 

If the notion of charismatic authority is not dispensable, we must then 
consider the leader's credentials. Here the problem of belief comes to the 
forefront, because there is no leader, no prophet, who does not claim to 
be the true prophet and therefore seek our belief. "It is recognition on the 
part of those -subject to authority which is decisive for the validity of 
charisma" (242). In this sentence is the place for a problematic of ideology. 
Belief is required and yet, Weber goes on, the leader does not rely on 
belief. On the contrary, it is because the leader raises a claim that others 
must believe. 

No prophet has ever regarded his quality as dependent on the attitudes of the 
masses toward him. No elective king or military leader has ever treated those who 
have resisted him or tried to ignore him otherwise than as delinquent in duty. 
Failure to take part in a military expedition under such leader, even though 
recruitment is formally voluntary, has universally met with disdain. (242) 

This speaks for today as well as for the past. "Recognition is a duty" (244). 
The relation between belief and claim is replaced simply by a belief in the 
sign. In the sign is the proof given by the leader. This is the validity' of 
charisma. "[Recognition is freely given and guaranteed by what is held to 
be a proof, originally always a miracle, and consists in devotion to the 
corresponding revelation, hero worship, or absolute trust in the leader" 
(242). The religious value of charisma is captured for the sake of the 
political structure. This may be finally the first ideology of power: the 
belief that the power is divine, that it does not come from us but from 
above. The origin of power in the people is stolen to the same extent that, 
in Marxist terms, the surplus-value of their labor seems to belong to capital ; 
both power and capital are said to function on their own basis. In both 
cases we have the same capture of meaning. The decisive trait of charismatic 
authority, then, is the lack of reciprocity between claim and belief. The 
claim does not rely on the belief, but the belief is extorted by the claim. 
My question is whether this disjuncture between claim and belief in char- 

Weber ( 2 ) 

2I 3 

ismatic authority is not the basis for all issues of power and domination in 

In concluding this lecture, I would like to return to the question of why 
even though Weber's conceptual framework is a good one for the study of 
ideology, he does not analyze this topic. We may summarize the importance 
of Weber's framework by considering one example of its application. In 
his book The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, Weber deals 
with a problem that is similar to Marx's; Weber shows that there is a certain 
reciprocity between the ethics of Protestantism and the ideology of the 
entrepeneur. A certain circularity exists between the class structure and 
the religious ideology. Much of the controversy about Weber's thesis con- 
centrates on this relation between the Protestant ethic and capitalism and 
whether one gave rise to the other. Because of our analysis of Weber's 
conceptual framework, though, I think we can now see that raising the 
question of the initial cause is not a good question. To ask whether the 
ethics produced the capitalist mind or vice versa is to remain in an inap- 
propriate framework. Instead, I would rather say that the ethics provide 
the symbolic structure within which some economic forces work. It is more 
an issue of the relation between a framework of reference and a system of 
forces. The same problem arises in Freud, the question, for example, of 
how infantile drives work within a cultural framework provided by the 
structure of parenthood and the family. If we attempt to deal with this 
problem in causal terms, we are lost. It is not possible to ask which comes 
first, because a force works within a certain framework of meaningfulness, 
and this framework cannot be put in terms of infrastructure and 

This is the point where Weber does not provide so much an alternate 
solution to the Marxists as a better framework to deal with the same 
problem. Weber eludes this result, though, perhaps because he did not 
consider what was so important for The German Ideology, the fact that our 
relationships are frozen and no longer appear to us as what they are; there 
is a reification of human relationships. It may be that the anti-Marxist 
element in Weber prevented him from dealing with the problem of the 
reification of his own categories. Perhaps for the same reason he did not 
emphasize the notion of class, which is one of the structures within which 
this distortion takes place. I think Weber's conceptual framework can be 
reappropriated, though, to show that the process of reification occurs 
within a symbolic system. Only a symbolic system may be altered in such 


Weber (2) 

a way that it looks like a deterministic system. There is a kind of simulation 
of determinism by frozen symbolic relationships. This, in any case, is the 
kind of solution which I am now preparing to introduce through discussion 
of Habermas and Geertz. Weber always thought that he was dealing with 
transparent structures, whereas we know they are not transparent. 

It may be that one reason Weber had to resort to ideal types is because 
no transparency exists. The argument then advanced is that the only way 
to recapture meaning is to stand outside the distorting process and proceed 
by the abstractions of ideal types. The supposed noninvolvement of the 
sociologist is said to allow him or her not to be caught in the distorting 
process. Even if we grant this possibility, though, Weber does not describe 
the distortive subject matter through which his own analysis moves. It may 
be true that the existence of a system of power rests on our belief, but we 
do not recognize that immediately. We have to break through the structure's 
appearance of objectivity, but Weber never really alerts us to this fact. 
When Weber says, for example, that a state depends on the probability 
that people obey its rules, this notion of probability is put forth for a 
particular reason: to account for the fascination of the group's member 
with the system of rules. To transpose the member's response into terms 
of probability presupposes that we have unfrozen the frozen relationships, 
that we have reconstrued the system of motivation as a transparent system. 
In contrast to someone like Habermas, the subject of the next two lectures, 
Weber does not indicate that this transparency occurs only at the end of a 
critical process. Only at the end of a process of critique do we recover as 
our own work what appears to be the productivity of capital, recover as 
our own motivating beliefs what appears to be the power of the state. 
Weber's conceptual framework allows us to see the gap between claim and 
belief, but the reasons for and the significance of this discrepancy are 
factors Weber himself does not attend. 

Some may claim that my reading of Weber, just as my reading of Marx, 
does violence to his text. By doing apparent violence to Marx, though, I 
think that I actually succeeded in reading The German Ideology better. 
Marx does say that the class is not a given but a result of action, of 
interaction, a result that we do not recognize to be a consequence of our 
action. While orthodox Marxists may contend that my reading does vio- 
lence to The German Ideology, my own stance is that this reading recognizes 
a dimension of the text. In fact, I would claim to have done more violence 
to Weber than to Marx. I forced Weber, I compelled him to say what he 

Weber (2) 

2I 5 

did not want to say: that it is through some ideological process that we 
take hold of our own motivation in relation to power. In Weber we never 
have the idea that something is repressed in this experience, that our 
communicative competence, to use Habermas' vocabulary, is lost. Weber 
does not see that it is because this competence is lost that we can only 
describe types or structures. 


Habermas (i) 

For our analysis of ideology, Habermas offers a point of transition between 
Weber's discussion of legitimation and Geertz's on ideology as identifica- 
tion. Habermas shows that the significance of the gap Weber reveals be- 
tween claim and belief can only be fully understood at the end of a process 
of critique, and he lays the groundwork for Geertz in suggesting that 
ideology at bottom concerns communication and the symbolic mediation 
of action. In the two lectures on Habermas, I shall follow the same path 
as the lectures on Weber. I first build Habermas' conceptual framework, 
which should be placed at the same level as Weber's motivational frame- 
work, and then turn in more detail to the concept of ideology that Habermas 
develops on this basis. Our text is Habermas' book Knowledge and Human 

Habermas' conceptual framework is metacritical. Metacritique, says Ha- 
bermas, "subjects the critique of knowledge to unyielding self-reflection" 
(3). What Habermas wants to show is that metacritique is still critique to 
the extent that the central issue of the latter, as we leam in Kant's Critique 
of Pure Reason, is the question of the synthesis of the object. The problem 
is how does a subject have an object in front of him or her, or, in more 
Freudian terms, how do we construe the principle of reality? In Kant the 
synthesis is secured by the categorial network which he named the under- 
standing; lying behind this categorial framework is the principle of unity 
called the transcendental ego. The transcendental ego is the principle of 
the synthesis of the object through categories, schematism, time, and so 
on. The notion of philosophy as itself a critique originated in Horkheimer, 
and Habermas follows his predecessors in the Frankfurt School by placing 
the concept of critique at the forefront of his own conceptual framework. 

Habermas (i) 


In the development of his own methodological perspective, Habermas 
wants to show how Marx fits in the tradition of a critical philosophy deriving 
from Kant. For Habermas, Marxism is neither an empirical science nor a 
speculative science but a critique. 

In his attempt to read Marx against the background of critique, Haber- 
mas claims that the materialist solution to the problem of synthesis is to 
put labor in the place of Kant's schematism. To speak of labor or work as 
the bearer of synthesis admittedly does violence to Marx, but it is a creative 
violence. One tradition lying behind this approach to Marx is the master- 
slave relation in Hegel, where the fole of the object is central. The master 
consumes the object and the slave produces it, and each recognizes the 
other through what the other does. Each also recognizes itself according 
to what the other does to it. In this exchange of positions, the master sees 
the meaning of its consumption in the labor of the other, and the slave sees 
the meaning of its work in the consumption of the master. Expressed in 
Kantian terms, we have the constitution of the object through work and 
consumption. The following passage clarifies how Habermas arrives at his 
notion of synthesis and the extent to which it is a reconstruction and not a 
mere reading of Marx: 

Marx did not arrive at an explicit concept of this synthesis. He had only a more or 
less vague conception of it. He would have found the very concept of synthesis 
suspect, although the first thesis on Feuerbach directly contains an injunction to 
learn from idealism insofar as it grasps the "active side" of the cognitive process. 
Nevertheless, from various indications we can extrapolate the way in which social 
labor is to be conceived as the synthesis of man and nature. We must clearly 
articulate this materialist concept of synthesis if we wish to understand how all the 
elements of a critique of knowledge radicalized by Hegel's critique of Kant are 
present in Marx and yet are not combined to construct a materialist epistemology. 

Based on his reconstruction of Marxism, Habermas gives a most interesting 
meaning to materialism. He contrasts it to the intellectual operations of 
idealism — the categories, schematisms, and so on — and replaces the tran- 
scendental ego as bearer of the synthesis of the object by the productivity 
of a working subject as materialized in his or her work. 

Habermas' interpretation is post-Marxist; it apprehends both its bold- 
ness and its expansion beyond its source in Marx. Because Habermas 
believes he has taken a stance beyond Marx, he is able, he thinks, to 
proceed both to recognition of Marx's accomplishments — his greatness — 


Habermas (i) 

and to criticism of Marx's limits — his weaknesses. Habermas therefore has 
a principle for the assessment and appreciation of Marx; his effort is not a 
mere repetition of Marx but, we might say, a critical repetition. We shall 
follow Habermas as he moves through discussion of Marx's merits to 
discussion of Marx's limitations. 

For Habermas the greatness of Marx is that he did in fact provide the 
solution to the problem of synthesis. In Marx, says Habermas, "The subject 
of world constitution is not transcendental consciousness in general but 
the concrete human species, which reproduces its life under natural con- 
ditions" (27). Habermas grafts his interpretation onto Marx at the point 
where the vocabulary is that of The German Ideology, the work I chose 
myself as the most interesting for an anthropological approach. Habermas 
seems to agree that the dividing line in Marx is not between The German 
Ideology and Capital but between The German Ideology and the Manu- 
scripts of 1844. The synthesis, for Habermas, is not the synthesis of a 
consciousness but that of an activity. Praxis is the bearer of the synthesis. 
As the lines just cited indicate, Habermas uses the concept of the "concrete 
human species," which is a residue, we may remember, of Feuerbach's 
Gattungswesen. A practical humankind takes the place of the transcenden- 
tal consciousness. This concept of the "concrete human species" may be 
taken in a phenomenological sense as the definition of materialism. Use of 
the term "materialism" is awkward, because we always have to defend it 
from misunderstanding. Habermas' definition is not a thesis about matter. 
Unlike in general usage, where materialism is more a provocative word, a 
differentiation from idealism, here it means more a realistic anthropology. 

Characterization of the concrete human species as the bearer of the 
synthesis has several advantages. The first is that we have at the same time 
an anthropological category and an epistemological category. To state that 
labor produces the synthesis of the object is not simply to observe the 
economic role of human activity, it is also to understand the nature of our 
knowledge, the way we apprehend the world. 

That is why labor, or work, is not only a fundamental category of human existence 
but also an epistemological category. The system of objective activities creates the 
factual conditions of the possible reproduction of social life and at the same time 
the transcendental conditions of the possible objectivity of the objects of experience. 
(28; emphasis in original) 

This conjunction between epistemological and anthropological categories 

Habermas (i) 


is critical to the relationship we shall discuss in the following lecture 
between an interest and a field of experience. As we shall see, Habermas 
maintains that certain sciences correspond to certain interests. The interest 
in control and manipulation corresponds with the empirical sciences, the 
interest in communication with the historical and interpretive sciences, 
and the interest in emancipation with the critical social sciences such as 
psychoanalysis. To lay the groundwork for these correlations, Habermas 
must introduce at the outset the connection that the title of his work 
suggests: the connection between an anthropological concept — an inter- 
est — and an epistemological concept — a categorial system for dealing with 
certain fields of knowledge. This relationship between the two sets of 
categories originates in the notion of labor taken as a synthesis. Articulation 
of the correlation between the epistemological and the anthropological, 
between knowledge and interest, is the general problematic of our current 
focus of attention, the second chapter of Habermas' volume. 

A second advantage of the framework Habermas develops from Marx is 
that discussion of synthesis provides an improved interpretation of the 
concept of Lebenswelt, of "life-world," a concept originally formulated in 
the last work of Husserl, The Crisis of European Sciences. Understanding 
social labor as synthesis allows us to eliminate "a transcendental-logical 
misunderstanding" (28) ; we can avoid taking the concept of "life-world" 
ahistorically. Habermas argues that Husserl never rid himself of a Kantian 
transcendental approach; even when he speaks of the Lebenswelt it remains 
an invariant, like the Kantian categories. Husserl has an anthropology, but 
it is expressed in the language of Kant's atemporal categories. What Marx 
teaches us, says Habermas, is that we must speak of humanity in historical 
terms. "[T]he human species is not characterized by any invariant natural 
or transcendental structure, but only by a mechanism of humanization 
(Menschwerdung) " (29). The Manuscripts, we remember, speak of nature 
becoming more human and of humanity becoming more natural. Humanity 
and nature are promoted together, and together they become both more 
natural and more human. 

According to Habermas, this historicization of the transcendental is 
possible because Marx linked history to productive forces. Habermas 
stresses the historical nature of praxis — evident in the accumulation of 
tools, a technological history — and shows how Marx linked this history to 
the concept of productive forces. The historical dimension is introduced 
by productive forces; they are the bearer of history. Thus, the synthesis 


Habermas (i) 

undertaken by labor is distinct from the fixed essence ascribed by Kant to 
the categories. In a sense, it is only because there is a history of industry 
that history exists at all. In making this claim, it appears that Habermas 
does not subscribe to Marx's prejudice that ideologies have no history. 
Understanding has a history of its own, which may be exemplified by the 
history of science. Industry is not the only factor that gives a historical 
dimension to human existence; ideas have a history also. It is difficult to 
deny that an anti-idealistic stand like Habermas' against Husserl leads in 
this direction. 

A third implication of Habermas' starting point, and another objection 
to idealism, is that we should put the economic dimension of humanity in 
the place granted by Hegel to logic. If the key to synthesis is not transcen- 
dental logic, in either the Kantian or the Hegelian sense of that term, then 
we may say that an economics takes the place of a logic. This is an extreme 
claim, and one that I am not sure I would assume myself, but there is no 
doubt about Habermas' assertion: 

The point of departure for a reconstruction of synthetic accomplishments is not 
logic but the economy. Consequently what provides the material that reflection is 
to deal with in order to make conscious, basic synthetic accomplishments is not the 
correct combination of symbols according to rules, but social life processes, the 
material production and appropriation of products. Synthesis no longer appears as 
an activity of thought but as one of material production. . . . That is why for Marx 
the critique of political economy takes the place held by the critique of forma! logic 
in idealism. (31) 

Habermas adds, a few pages later: "The synthesis of the material of labor 
by labor power receives its actual unity through categories of man's ma- 
nipulations" (35). This reading of Marx puts him more or less within the 
same category as Peirce and Dewey. In a later chapter Marx appears as a 
forerunner of an enlightened pragmatism. I know that American philoso- 
phers will be pleased with that! 

A fourth advantage of treating labor as the synthesis of the object is that 
it extends an important analysis begun by Fichte. In the tradition of 
German idealism, Fichte is the other figure besides Kant who is an ancestor 
to Marx's elaboration of the problem of synthesis, and Habermas returns 
to Fichte throughout his book. Fichte is the one who made the decisive 
step from a philosophy of theory to a theory of praxis, because his funda- 
mental concept is the self-positing activity of human being. Fichte con- 
nected the synthesis in imagination to the active subject. The fundamental 

Habermas (i) 


ego in Fichtean thought is the active subject. The ego that must be able to 
accompany all my representations — to use the Kantian language — is not 
an ultimate representation, it is not a representation of a higher order but 
die Tathandlung, an action, the self-positing ego. As we may remember, 
there are many texts in The German Ideology where the concept of self- 
activity, Selbstbetatigung, is central. Habermas is right to trace back this 
concept of Selbstbetatigung to Fichte's notion that humanity posits itself 
by the process of praxis and the intercourse with nature. The mutual 
generation of human being and nature is at the same time a reif-generation 
of human being. 

The identity of consciousness, which Kant understood as the unity of transcen- 
dental consciousness, is identity achieved through labor. It is not an immediate 
faculty of synthesis, or pure apperception, but an act of self -consciousness in 
Fichte's sense. That is why a social subject attains consciousness of itself in the 
strict sense only if it becomes aware of itself in its production or labor as the self- 
generative act of the species in general and knows itself to have been produced by 
the "labor of the entire previous course of world history." (40 ; emphasis in original; 
no reference cited to quotation) 

Thus we have Habermas' recognition, in Kantian and Fichtean terms, of 
Marx's merits. The concept of labor as synthesis takes the place of a 
synthesis through Kantian understanding or a synthesis through Fichtean 
self-apperception of the ego. 

The same interpretation which retrieves Marx's merits, though, also 
starts the critique. Habermas' objection, to which he continually returns, 
is that Marx reduced the concept of activity to production. The scope of 
the concept was collapsed. While Marx solved the problem of synthesis by 
labor, he reduced the compass of his discovery by identifying work merely 
with instrumental action. The concept of instrumental action is the per- 
manent point of reference in Habermas' discussion; the critique is that 
Marx's analysis is not a good tool for resisting the reduction Marcuse has 
described as the "one-dimensional" character of human being. An element 
of one-dimensionality is already present in the concept of instrumental 
action, and this infects Marx's analysis as a whole. Just like bourgeois 
ideology, Marxist ideology also leads to a technological reduction. 

If we admit this critique of Marx, if we acknowledge the flattening of 
the Fichtean concept of production to economic or technological produc- 
tion, this has dreadful consequences for Marx's theory itself, because it 
cannot then legitimate its own critical function. If human beings only 


Habermas (i) 

synthesize reality by labor, and no critical distance from this labor is 
available, then we cannot give an account of Marx's own work in terms of 
his categories. We have a theory which cannot make sense of its own 
achievement. What is lacking is the self-reflective element abolished by the 
reduction of the self -generative capacity of human action to mere instru- 
mental action. "[T]he philosophical foundation of this materialism proves 
itself insufficient to establish an unconditional phenomenological self-re- 
flection of knowledge and thus prevent the positivist atrophy of episte- 
mology" (42). 

In a certain sense, then, Habermas' stance here is anti-Marxist, and yet 
his attempt is to find support for his objection in Marx himself. This is the 
most interesting part of Habermas' discussion at this point, an effort to 
show that there exist within Marx himself hints of the duality within the 
concept of the self-generation and self-production of human being. The 
basis for Habermas' analysis is the important distinction that we spoke of 
several times in our own discussion of Marx, the difference between forces 
of production (Produktivkraften) and relations of production (Prvduktions- 
verhaltnisse). Habermas' principal argument is that while this distinction 
is denied by Marx's theory, it is recognized in all his concrete inquiries. 
Therefore, he contends, we must look at what Marx actually does and not 
at what he says that he does. The theory that Marx elaborates concerning 
his work is narrower than what is implied by his concrete work itself. 

What does it mean to say that production has two sides, forces and 
relationships? By relations of production, we must understand the insti- 
tutional framework of labor, the fact that labor exists within a system of 
free enterprise or within a state-run enterprise and so on. The relations of 
production are constituted by the institutional system within which we 
shall find precisely the kind of symbolic mediations that Geertz will discuss . 
An institutional framework is not only the legal rules, the juridical frame- 
work, but what Habermas calls the structure of symbolic interaction and 
the cultural tradition through which a people apprehends its own work. If 
we look, for example, at the present state of socialism in eastern Europe, 
the Soviet Union, and China, the traditions of the people in each setting 
influence the content of the socialism developed. The structure of symbolic 
interaction and the cultural tradition are components of the institutional 
framework. We must take the word "institutional" in a broader sense than 
a merely juridical or legal concept. 

Alongside the forces of production in which instrumental action is sedimented, 
Marx's social theory also incorporates into its approach the institutional framework, 

Habermas fr) 


the relations of production. It does not eliminate from practice the structure of 
symbolic interaction and the role of cultural tradition, which are the only basis on 
which power (Herrschaft) and ideology can be comprehended. (42) 

Habermas' statement here is central to our inquiry, because only within a 
conceptual framework that distinguishes between relations and forces may 
we speak of ideology. Ideology intervenes only at the level of the relations 
of production, not the forces of production. 

If we want a Marxist theory of ideology, therefore, we must first make 
sense of the distinction between relations and forces. This means that we 
need a concept of praxis. In the vocabulary of Habermas, praxis includes 
both instrumental action and the structure of symbolic interaction. Ideol- 
ogy will appear as a distortion affecting one of the components of praxis. 
For Habermas, the concept of praxis is an attempt to recover the density 
of the Fichtean concept of action (Tathandlung) within a Marxist vocab- 
ulary. Labor is the source of synthesis, but human labor is always more 
than instrumental action because we cannot work without bringing in our 
traditions and our symbolic interpretation of the world. Our work also 
includes the institutional framework of society, because our work is defined 
by contracts and other stipulations. When we work, we work within a 
system of conventions. We cannot define praxis only in terms of the labor 
techniques that we apply. Our praxis itself incorporates a certain institu- 
tional framework. Once again we see that the distinction between super- 
structure and infrastructure is not appropriate, because we include some- 
thing of the so-called superstructure within the concept of praxis. We have 
then a complete reshaping of the vocabulary ordinarily used to describe 
praxis. We can no longer say that people first have a praxis and then have 
some ideas about this praxis, which is their ideology. Instead, we see that 
praxis incorporates an ideological layer; this layer may become distorted, 
but it is a component of praxis itself. 

According to Habermas, recognition of this duality in the constitution 
of praxis is what Marx presupposes in his own practice of inquiry but 
excludes from his theoretical frame of reference. We must therefore follow 
the practice of Marx's inquiry and not the reductive framework of his 
philosophical self-understanding. Marx's practice implies that the history 
of humankind is comprehended "under categories of material activity and 
the critical abolition of ideologies. ..." The critical abolition of ideologies 
is included in the process of action. Habermas expresses this relation in 
several different ways, but they all rely on this dual functioning of the 
concept of praxis: 


Habermas (i) 

Thus in Marx's works a peculiar disproportion arises between the practice of 
inquiry and the limited philosophical self-understanding of this inquiry. In his 
empirical analyses Marx comprehends the history of the species under categories 
of material activity and the critical abolition of ideologies, of instrumental action 
and revolutionary practice, of labor and reflection at once. But Marx interprets 
what he does in the more restricted conception of the species' self -reflection through 
work alone. The materialist concept of synthesis is not conceived broadly enough 
in order to explicate the way in which Marx contributes to realizing the intention 
of a really radicalized critique of knowledge. In fact, it even prevented Marx from 
understanding his own mode of procedure from this point of view. (42; emphases 
in original) 

My own response here is to ask whether we can preserve what was said 
earlier about tjae synthesis as labor if we substitute for the concept of labor 
that of praxis, which implies both labor and something else. Between labor, 
praxis, and also action there is a certain vacillation, which I find a recurring 
problem in Habermas. These concepts overlap. Sometimes labor is the all- 
encompassing concept which does the synthesis, and it is then equal to 
praxis; at other times, though, labor is identified with instrumental action. 
It is not easy to locate the concept of labor. 

Habermas properly relocates this problem by redefining the distinction 
between labor and praxis as one between instrumental action and interac- 
tion or communicative action. In the third chapter of Knowledge and 
Human Interests, to which we now turn, Habermas draws the epistemo- 
logical implications of this division. Habermas' question is what is the 
status of a science about praxis? Marx never discussed systematically "the 
specific meaning of a science of man elaborated as a critique of ideology 
and distinct from the instrumentalist meaning of natural science" (45). 
What Marx did was critique and not natural science, but he offered no 
epistemological justification for this social theory. Instead, he continually 
described his work analogously to the natural sciences. The fact that Marx's 
work was a critique of political economy should have directed his attention 
to the reflective component of this critique, but it did not. Habermas 
argues therefore that to the extent we reduce praxis to material production, 
to instrumental action, then the model is that of the natural sciences. We 
simply treat the science of praxis as an extension of the natural sciences. 
On the other hand, if we elaborate the dialectics between the instrumental 
and interactive poles of praxis, then we have a science which is not an 
extension or a transposition of natural sciences but a different kind of 
science, and this is critique. The status of a social science as a critique is 

Habermas (i) 


linked to the critical dimension available in the symbolic system of inter- 
action, the possibility of taking distance from and reacting back on the 
level of instrumental action. The epistemological discussion of the third 
chapter must be linked to the anthropological topic of the preceding 

What characterizes a natural science, says Habermas, is that it can be 
unreflective. It can be unreflective because it deals with objects distinct 
from the knower, the scientist. As a result, the scientist is not implied in 
his or her science. We need not discuss whether Habermas' characterization 
here is necessarily correct. We may accept for the purpose of discussion 
that the natural sciences may be unreflective; the important point is that 
the social sciences surely are reflective. This is the positive part of Haber- 
mas' argument, which does not necessarily imply its counterpart. When 
the social sciences are viewed erroneously as analogous to the natural 
sciences, then the control of productive forces is itself understood under 
the category of what Habermas calls "knowledge for control" (47). In 
German the term is Verfugungswissen, which relates to having something 
at one's disposal. Behind the term there seems to be the Heideggerian 
notion of having something at hand. When the model of the natural sciences 
rules, says Habermas, reflective knowledge (Refiexionswissen) is swallowed 
up within Verfugungswissen, this knowledge for control. The power of 
technical control encompasses everything. 

According to this construction the history of transcendental consciousness would 
be no more than the residue of the history of technology . The latter is left exclusively 
to the cumulative evolution of feedback-controlled action and follows the tendency 
to augment the productivity of labor and to replace human labor power — "the 
realization of this tendency is the transformation of the means of labor into ma- 
chinery." (48) 

The quotation is taken from Marx's Grundrisse; it is therefore a comment 
not by the early Marx but by the mature Marx. 

The assumption that all science is patterned on natural science reduces 
the Fichtean notion of human self-activity into an industrialist mentality. 
For Habermas this reduction is the modern ideology. Ideology proceeds 
from the reduction of action to labor, of labor to instrumental action, and 
instrumental action to the technology which swallows our work. The sci- 
ence investigating human being becomes nothing more than a province of 
the natural sciences. For Habermas, something is repressed in this inter- 
pretation. The industrialist reading of human activity conceals "the di- 


Habermas (i) 

mension of self-reflection in which it must move regardless" (50). Even for 
Marx in the Grundrisse, says Habermas, "the transformation of science 
into machinery does not by any means lead of itself to the liberation of a 
self-conscious general subject that masters the process of production "(51). 
Something more is needed than mere instrumental action: the power 
relations that regulate human beings' interactions among themselves. 
"Marx very precisely distinguishes the self-conscious control of the social 
life process by the combined producers from an automatic regulation of 
the process of production that has become independent of these individu- 
als" (51; emphases in original). This "self-conscious control of the social 
life process" is what Habermas calls the system of interaction. 

Habermas' distinction between a theory of interaction and a theory of 
instrumental action is his response to the tension in Marx between the 
technical and the practical. We must understand by the practical not simply 
the matter-of-fact but all the dimensions of action ruled by norms and 
ideals; it covers the whole field of ethics and applied ethics. The practical 
includes all areas of action that have a symbolic structure, a structure that 
both interprets and regulates action. The technical and the practical rep- 
resent a twofold division in the field of human action. For our inquiry into 
ideology this differentiation is fundamental, because ideology affects the 
individual's action at the basic stage of its organization. 

At the level of his material investigations . . . Marx always takes account of social 
practice that encompasses both work and interaction. The processes of natural 
history are mediated by the productive activity of individuals and the organization 
of their interrelations. These relations are subject to norms that decide, with the 
force of institutions, how responsibilities and rewards, obligations and charges to 
the social budget are distributed among members. The medium in which these 
relations of subjects and of groups are normatively regulated is cultural tradition. 
It forms the linguistic communication structure on the basis of which subjects 
interpret both nature and themselves in their environment. (53) 

The reference to cultural tradition, norms, institutions, the linguistic struc- 
ture of communication, and interpretation confirms our hypothesis that 
distortive processes make sense only if action is conceived as symbolically 
mediated. The concept of interpretation belongs to this primitive layer and 
represents the activity individuals undertake with respect both to nature 
and to themselves in their environment. 

Without the distinction between instrumental and communicative ac- 
tion, there is no room for critique and even no room for ideology itself. It 

Habermas (i) 


is only within an institutional framework that social dependency and po- 
litical power may display their repressive effects. Also only within this 
framework does "communication free from domination" (53) make sense. 
(We shall return to the Utopian overtones of this phrase later.) The "self- 
generative act of the species" (53) must therefore encompass both produc- 
tive activity (labor) and revolutionary activity. Emancipation is twofold: 
from natural constraints and from human oppression. The development 
of new technologies and of ideological struggle is "interdependent" (55). 
(As the vocabulary itself suggests, ideological delusion and its critique both 
belong to the same sphere of self-reflection, which must be as primitive as 
productive action itself. Again this implies that we must give up the 
distinction between infrastructure and superstructure.) Marx was unable 
to elaborate this dialectic between the two developments because the dis- 
tinction between forces and relations of production remained submitted to 
the categorical framework of production. Habermas, on the other hand, 
claims that the "self-constitution of the human species in natural history" 
must combine both "self-generation through productive activity and self- 
formation through critical-revolutionary activity" (55)- 

In some ways Habermas' distinction between the practical and the tech- 
nical seems to be based more in Hegel than in Marx. Habermas relies on 
an early phase of Hegel'^ reflection, the lectures at Jena, the Jenenser 
Realphilosophie (56). (Hapermas discusses these lectures in more detail in 
his essay on "Labor and Interaction" in Theory and Practice.) Hegel's Jena 
philosophy was self-sufficient and was not completely absorbed into his 
Phenomenology of the Spirit. In these early writings Hegel elaborates for 
the first time the problem of recognition, which is the main moral issue. 
We may remark that traces of this discussion do reappear at various points 
in the Phenomenology of the Spirit; what is at stake in the master-slave 
relation, for example, is a struggle not for power but for recognition. 
Habermas discovers within this framework of recognition a model for the 
relation between subjects. It is important for Habermas, therefore, that 
the problem finally is not to suppress our enemy but to come to an agree- 
ment which is beyond our differences. As we shall see, Habermas finds the 
model of the psychoanalytical situation most relevant on this topic. For 
Habermas the class struggle is not a problem of suppressing one class but 
of overcoming struggle so that there may be a state where recognition 
between human beings occurs. To be sure, institutions like capitalism have 
to be crushed in order for this possibility to be actualized. The important 


Habermas (i) 

point, though, is that it is not individuals who have to be suppressed but 
a certain structure. 

Another place in the Phenomenology of the Spirit where this problem of 
recognition returns, one closer to the Jena philosophy, is in the recognition 
between the culprit and the judge. The judge must both judge and rec- 
ognize the culprit and must also be judged by the culprit in order to be 
recognized himself or herself. There is an exchange of places between the 
judging consciousness and the guilty consciousness. As the Jena philosophy 
discusses more fully, the framework of recognition between the criminal 
and the judge indicates that the estrangement of each party has been 
overcome. The judge has been as much estranged as the culprit. Between 
the judged and>the judging there is a situation of mutual excommunication, 
and recognition is the victory over this situation of estrangement. The 
master-slave, the judge-culprit, and so on constitute a framework of strug- 
gle; the issue is not supremacy, which would remain bound to the same 
structure of power, but recognition. We shall return to this emphasis on 
recognition instead of power when we discuss the problem of whether a 
Utopia rules the critique of ideology. 

This framework of recognition is important for Habermas because it 
situates his theory of interaction as a "dialogic relation" (56). The situation 
of excommunication, which recognition must overcome, is a disease of 
communication. Ideology is therefore itself a disease of communication. 
Ideology is not the accidental but the systematic distortion of the dialogic 
relation. We cannot speak of the dialogic relation except through the process 
of recognition, and ideology is the system of resistances to the restoration 
of the dialogic relation. Only with this frame of reference can we understand 
such otherwise strange if striking statements as the following: "Unlike 
synthesis through social labor, the dialectic of class antagonism is a move- 
ment of reflection" (58). This does not sound very Marxist. If we interpret 
reflection on the basis of recognition, however, then we may say that finally 
the class struggle is a problem of recognition between the members of the 

Thus it is not unconstrained intersubjectivity itself that we call dialectic, but the 
history of its repression and re-establishment. The distortion of the dialogic relation 
is subject to the causality of split-off symbols and reined grammatical relations: 
that is, relations that are removed from public communication, prevail only behind 
the backs of subjects, and are thus also empirically coercive. (59) 

The word "ideology" is not uttered, but this statement is in fact a definition 
of ideology. 

Habermas (i) 


When Habermas says here that "the dialogic relation is subject to the 
causality of split-off symbols," he purposely introduces the notion of caus- 
ality. As Habermas' recourse to the Freudian model will further illuminate, 
we must speak in terms of causality even within a situation of motivation, 
because when the motives have been frozen they look like things. We must 
apply a causal model within an interpretive model. Causal relationships 
are fragments of explanation within a process of interpretation. Arguing a 
position similar, if for different reasons, to my own writings on the theory 
of the text, Habermas denies the opposition between interpretation and 
explanation. In reified relationships we must treat motives as causes. An 
example of this is Habermas' notion of the "causality of fate" (56) , another 
borrowing from Hegel. Fate is something which happens to freedom, but 
it simulates the regularity of nature. In the state of reification, human 
reality simulates natural reality, and this is why we must speak of causality. 

We may amplify that the reified situation still exists within a motivational 
framework by noting that motivation does not require consciousness. 
Meaning and consciousness are separable; something may be meaningful 
without being recognized. Reference to the interpretation of Freud is 
pertinent, because we must fight against a mechanistic interpretation of 
the so-called unconscious. In a mechanistic framework, the unconscious is 
a place where there are forces. The impossible task is then to show how a 
force has meaning if it is not already meaningful at the unconscious level. 
As I claimed in my book on Freud and Philosophy, we should say instead 
that the topographical representation of the unconscious has a certain 
phenomenological value because\it expresses the fact that we are no longer 
the author. The system of repression_implies that our motivation appears 
to be like a thing. 

The topography of the unconscious in Freud has its counterpart in the 
Marxist concept of infrastructure. The concept of infrastructure is not 
inapposite if we are not deceived by it and think we can analyze it only as 
an object of the natural sciences. In fact, the infrastructure belongs to the 
field of the human sciences but under the condition of alienation which 
transforms motivations into things. This implies that we have to deal with 
concepts which have a kind of physical appearance, and in a sense this is 
the case. Some Marxists say that materialism is the truth of a society which 
has lost the sense of its creativity, a society which has become buried under 
its own products. Materialism is then not a philosophical truth but a truth 
proper to the historical situation. Similarly, we can say that the language 
of superstructure and infrastructure is the appropriate language for speak- 


Habermas (i) 

ing of a system of motivations which have been reified. Borrowing from 
the German theorist on Freud Alfred Lorenzer, Habermas speaks of a 
desymbolized process which has to be resymbolized (256 f.). In his attempt 
to link Marx and Freud, Habermas argues that the notion of alienation in 
Marx* has its correlative concept in desymbolization, and he follows Lor- 
enzer in affirming that psychoanalysis is the process by which we go from 
desymbolization toward resymbolization through the intermediate stage of 
transference. As we shall see, Habermas maintains that critical social sci- 
ence parallels psychoanalysis in this regard and is itself a process incorpo- 
rating explanation within a larger interpretive model. 

At the end of the third chapter of Knowledge and Human Interests, 
Habermas agaiff claims that his differentiation between instrumental and 
communicative action is supported not simply by Hegel but by the inquiry 
of Marx himself. Habermas looks for this support in Marx's famous text 
in Capital on the fetishism of commodities. Here Marx uses the Feuerbach- 
ian model of inversion not as a form of explanation but as a metaphor. Just 
as religion transformed human activity into the power of the divine, so 
capitalism has reified human labor in the form of the commodity. Those 
fascinated by the reifications of our. work are in exactly the same situation 
as those who project our freedom onto a supernatural being and then 
worship it. There is a relation of worship in both, and this is a strong 
argument against Althusser, because worship should have no place after 
the so-called epistemological break. Habermas quotes Marx: " 'Here it is 
only the specific social relation of men themselves that assumes for them 
the phantasmagoric form of a relation of things' " (60). A human relation 
" 'assumes . . . the phantasmagoric form of a relation of things.' " 

Marx's text on the fetishism of commodities is crucial for a theory of 
ideology, because it shows that in bourgeois society ideology does not 
function merely or even mainly as a social form which institutionalizes 
political domination. Instead, its most important function is to stabilize 
class antagonism through the legal institution of the free labor contract. 
By concealing productive activity in a commodity form, ideology operates 
at the level of the market. For my own part, I draw the conclusion that in 
the capitalistic era the major ideology is no longer a religious ideology but 
precisely a market ideology. To speak like Bacon, we may say that ideology 
now takes the form of a market idol. Habermas himself comments: 

Thus, according to Marx, the distinguishing feature of capitalism is that it has 
brought ideologies from the heights of mythological or religious legitimations of 

Habermns (i) 


tangible domination and power down into the system of social labor. In liberal 
bourgeois society the legitimation of power is derived from the legitimation of the 
market, that is from the "justice" of the exchange of equivalents inherent in 
exchange relations. It is unmasked by the critique of commodity fetishism. (60) 

There is an emigration of ideology from the religious sphere to the economic 

Moving beyond Habermas to my~~awn interpretation here, may we not 
say that because religion is now less involvecftn the production of ideolo- 
gies — since the fetishism of commodities can work by itself — then perhaps 
a Utopian use of religion may be part of the critique of ideology. Religion 
may act not only as an ideology but as a critical tool to the extent that 
ideology has emigrated from the religious sphere to the marketplace and 
to science and technology. If the market and science and technology are 
the modern ideologies, then the present ideological role of religion may be 
less a burning issue. Religion still has an ideological role but this function 
has been superseded by the ideological role of the market and technology. 
We may then place religion in a dialectical position between ideology and 
Utopia. Religion functions as an ideology when it justifies the existing 
system of power, but it also functions as a Utopia to the extent that it is a 
motivation nourishing the critique. Religion may help to unmask the idol 
of the market. 1 

In any event, the main interest of the second and third chapters of 
Knowledge and Human Interests is to place the concept of class struggle 
within the framework of communicative action and so not limit it to the 
system of production. For Habermas the concept of class struggle is homo- 
geneous not with the concept of production but with the institutional 
framework within which productive forces work. It is therefore part of the 
process of self-consciousness. To be aware of the situation of class struggle 
is to be raised to a new dimension of consciousness, class consciousness. 
This process makes sense, however, only to the extent that it is already the 
beginning of a critique and of a movement toward recognition. Class 
struggle is part of the movement from alienation to recognition within the 
symbolization process; it is a moment of desymbolization. Class struggle 
is then a process distinct from mere social labor because it confronts 
subjectivities; one way that we identify ourselves as subjects is by our class 
identification. We now understand that the critique of ideology, to which 
the next lecture turns, is itself part of the communicative process; it is the 
critical moment within this process. 


Habermas (2) 


In this lecture I shall discuss Habermas' theory of ideology, which is 
presented in terms of a critique, a critique of ideology. I shall focus mainly 
on the parallelism claimed between psychoanalysis and the critique of 
ideology, since Habermas bases his theory of ideology on the transfer of 
some psychoanalytic insights into the field of the critical social sciences. 

Before turning to this discussion, however, we need to situate the char- 
acter of psychoanalysis and ideology-critique as critical social sciences. In 
establishing the distinctiveness of critical social sciences, Habermas moves 
from a twofold division between instrumental and practical sciences to a 
threefold division between instrumental, historical-hermeneutic, and crit- 
ical social sciences. This change in Habermas' framework is set out in the 
appendix to Knowledge and Human Interests. The appendix does not 
belong to the German edition of Knowledge and Human Interests; it was 
added to the English translation. This essay is the inaugural address Ha- 
bermas delivered upon assuming his chair at Frankfurt in 1965, a chair he 
left only a few years later after receiving condemnation for his support of 
German student protests in the late 1960s. The appendix is addressed not 
to Marx but rather to the tradition of phenomenology in Husserl and its 
offshoot, the hermeneutics of Gadamer. While never named, Gadamer is 
clearly the major person the address is directed against. Habermas' three- 
fold division of both knowledge-constitutive interests and their correspond- 
ing sciences is central to his response to Gadamer, who maintains a twofold 
division. A second reason for Habermas' formulation may be that this 
division comes from his friend and colleague Karl-Otto Apel. Apel is a 
much more systematic thinker, even an architectonic thinker. Apel is 
interested more in epistemology, whereas Habermas' focus is the sociology 

Habermas (2) 


of knowledge. When Habermas shifts from a sociology of knowledge to an 
epistemology, the discrepancy in framework may therefore be the change 
from his own portrayal of the former's duality between the instrumental 
and the practical to acceptance of Apel's tripartite characterization of the 

I shall not examine in any detail the first four sections of the appendix, 
because the critique of Husserl presented there is not very good. The 
sections are directed against the theoretical claims of philosophy, but it is 
a weak argument to oppose praxis to theory and to say that everything is 
theory which is not post-Marxist tfiought. Husserl is accused of committing 
the Platonic sin, because he remains under the spell of theory. Positivism 
is also treated as an heir of this theoretical illusion, and as a result the fight 
between Husserl and positivism becomes meaningless. I question even 
more whether this opposition between praxis and theory does not weaken 
Habermas' own position, because how can there be a critical position that 
does not participate in the theoretical trend of philosophy? The critical 
moment within praxis is surely a theoretical moment; the capacity for 
distanciation is always a part of theory. 

The interesting part of the appendix is the fifth section, and I shall 
restrict myself to that because it gives us a good summary of Habermas' 
project here as a whole. There are two main ideas. The first is that an 
interest, which is an anthropological concept, is at the same time a tran- 
scendental concept in the Kantian sense of the word. A transcendental 
concept is the condition of possibility of a certain type of experience. Each 
interest then rules a certain domain of experience and provides this domain 
with its major categories. We have already discussed this in considering 
labor as a synthesis ; in acting as a synthesis, labor is both an anthropological 
and an epistemological concept. The concept offers a principle of classifi- 
cation, and it also provides the major rules of a given science. A type of 
science corresponds to an interest because an interest supplies the expec- 
tations for what can be accepted, identified, and recognized in a given field. 

Habermas' second idea delimits this relationship by suggesting that there 
are three interests which rule three type of sciences. The first interest is 
one we have already discussed, the instrumental. An equivalence is drawn 
between the technical-instrumental, which rules the domain of the empir- 
ical sciences, and what can be put under control by empirical knowledge. 
"This is the cognitive interest in technical control over objectified pro- 
cesses" (309). Habermas owes more than he claims to Husserl's critique in 

2 34 

Habermas (2) 

The Crisis of European Sciences, since Husserl there tried to show that we 
have natural sciences because we have objectified and expressed in math- 
ematical law the domain of nature within which we live. What is post- 
Marxist is Habermas' identification of obj edification with the notion of 
control and manipulation. As we have briefly noted before, for Habermas 
the modern ideology may be defined as the reduction of all other interests 
to this interest. This is the Marcusean component of Habermas, an argu- 
ment that the hierarchies of interests and sciences have been flattened to 
one dimension only. When a cognitive interest supersedes and rules a 
communicative interest, there arises the situation of modern ideology in 
which science and technology function ideologically, because they justify 
the reduction of>human being to this one-dimensional figure. 

The second interest is called a historical-hermeneutic interest, and it too 
has methodological implications. What is striking here is that this interest 
is defined in Gadamerian terms. 

Access to the facts is provided by the understanding of meaning, not observation. 
The verification of lawlike hypotheses in the empirical-analytic sciences has its 
counterpart here in the interpretation of texts. Thus the rules of hermeneutics 
determine the possible meaning of the validity of statements of the cultural sciences. 

Each interest is transcendental, that is, a space for a particular kind of 
validation. We do not validate all statements in the same way; the kind of 
validation we resort to depends on the nature of our interest. We do not 
want to verify or falsify historical propositions; instead, we validate them 
by their capacity to enlarge our communication. As Habermas puts it in 
some more recent essays, historical-hermeneutic validation centers on the 
possibility of building a narrative of our own life. One way Habermas 
attempts to interpret psychoanalysis is in terms of its ability to construct a 
consistent narrative. The notion of a text is then decisive, and the rule of 
hermeneutics concern this text. 

The third kind of interest, that found in the critical social sciences, is 
not hermeneutic. Pursuit of Habermas* argument about the distinctiveness 
of the critical social sciences will orient our examination of his portrayal of 
psychoanalysis, which Habermas finds the prototypical example of this 
science. The appendix lays the groundwork for and provides the transition 
to this discussion. Habermas distinguishes between systematic and critical 
social sciences; not all social sciences are critical. "The systematic sciences 

Habermas (2) 


of social action, that is economics, sociology, and political science, have 
the goal, as do the empirical-analytic sciences, of producing nomological 
knowledge" (310). Nomological knowledge means that individual cases are 
put under more general regulative laws; explanation takes the form, as 
Hempel expresses it, of a covering law. (It seems that any social science 
that is not critical belongs to the first, instrumental kind of interest, and 
this is one reason why Habermas* division is not so satisfying.) A critical 
social science, on the other hand, is not content with producing nomological 
knowledge. "It is concerned with going beyond this goal to determine when 
theoretical statements grasp invariant regularities of social action as such 
and when they express ideologically frozen relations of dependence that 
can in principle be transformed" (310). The task of the critical social 
sciences is therefore to draw a line between cases where theoretical state- 
ments grasp the real human situation and cases where the laws developed 
describe in actuality the situation of reification. As we may remember, this 
is an argument Marx used at the beginning of the Manuscripts against the 
British political economists, claiming that they correctly described the 
character of capitalism but did not see that its underlying principle was 
alienation. What they took as a regularity was in fact the disguise of a 
situation of alienation. According to Habermas, then, the more standard 
social sciences are unable to differentiate between what is really human in 
what they describe and what is already reified and so has the appearance 
of a fact. The f actuality of the social sciences is ambiguous because it 
includes two elements which are not distinguished : that which belongs to 
the fundamental possibilities of communciation, symbolization, institu- 
tionalization, and so on, and that which is already reified and appears as a 
thing. The critique of ideology takes on a central role, because its function 
is to distinguish between these two kinds of social facts. 

The final point about the third kind of interest, says Habermas, is that 
to the extent that it makes a distinction between the two kinds of facts, 
"the critique of ideology, as well, moreover, as psychoanalysis, take into 
account that information about lawlike connections sets off a process of 
reflection in the consciousness of those whom the laws are about" (310). 
The critique is a process of understanding that advances by means of a 
detour through a process of scientific explanation. This detour encompasses 
explanation not only of what has been repressed but of the system of 
repression, explanation not only of distorted content but of the system of 
distortion. It is because of this emphasis on systemic analysis, Habermas 


Habermas (2) 

claims, that critical social science cannot be regarded as an extension of 
hermeneutics. According to Habermas, hermeneutics tries to extend the 
spontaneous capacity of communication without having to dismantle a 
system of distortion. Its concern is only local mistakes, misunderstanding, 
not the distortion of understanding. The model for hermeneutics is biog- 
raphy and philology. In biography we understand the continuity of a life 
on the basis of both its self -understanding and the direct understanding of 
others and not by digging under appearances. In philology we rely on the 
universal capacity of understanding based on the similarity between minds. 
The critical social sciences are distinctive because they allow us to make 
the detour required to explain the principle of distortion, a detour necessary 
so that we may Recapture for understanding and self-understanding what 
in fact has been distorted. 

I do not want to press too far, however, this opposition between her- 
meneutics and critique. I take this position for two reasons. First, I cannot 
conceive of a hermeneutics without a critical stage itself. This critical stage 
is exemplified in the development out of philology of modern structuralism 
and other objective approaches. Second, the critical sciences are themselves 
hermeneutical, in the sense that besides tending to enlarge communication 
they presuppose that the distortions of which they speak are not natural 
events but processes of desymbolization. The distortions belong to the 
sphere of communicative action. I try to minimize the discrepancy between 
a twofold and threefold division of the sciences, then, by saying that a 
division within the practical introduces the distinction between hermeneu- 
tic and critical social sciences. As the argument developed in the last lecture 
maintains, the element of critique is itself the key to the process of rees- 
tablishing communication; excommunication and the reestablishment of 
communciation therefore belong to the practical. I do not agree with the 
threefold division, which tends to identify the practical with the third kind 
of science and isolates the second as a distinct sphere. I am therefore more 
and more inclined to take the conflict between Habermas and Gadamer as 
a secondary one. There is, of course, the difference of their generations 
and also of their political stands. For Habermas, Gadamer is an old gentle- 
man who must vote on the right, and so hermeneutics represents the 
conservation of the past in a kind of museum. Gadamer, on the other hand, 
sees Habermas as the radical who made concessions to the students and 
was punished for it. I no longer find interesting this opposition between 
the two figures, because I do not see how we can have a critique without 

Habermas (2) 


also having an experience of communication. And this experience is pro- 
vided by the understanding of texts. We learn to communicate by under- 
standing texts. Hermeneutics without a project of liberation is blind, but 
a project of emancipation without historical experience is empty. 

In order to recover a conceptual framework of two stages and not three, 
I turn back from the appendix of Knowledge and Human Interests to the 
main part of the text. Recognition of Habermas' tripartite analysis helps 
us to understand why he depicts psychoanalysis and the critique of ideology 
as critical social sciences, but the two-part conceptual framework allows us 
to comprehend more adequately fhe topic to which we now turn, the 
transfer of concepts from psychoanalysis to the critique of ideology. This 
topic is Habermas' most interesting contribution. For this part of our 
discussion, I rely mainly on chapters ten through twelve of Habermas' 
text, and I shall raise two questions. The first asks what is paradigmatic 
for the critique of ideology in psychoanalysis. At issue is the nature of 
psychoanalysis as a model. The second question concerns the adequacy of 
this model; we must consider whether there are any significant differences 
between the psychoanalytic situation and the position of critique in the 
social sciences. In concluding the lecture, I shall link this second issue to 
one of the main questions that generates my reading of Habermas: is it not 
on the basis of a Utopia that we can do critique? 

To anticipate this conclusion, I might note that there is little in Habermas 
concerning the question of the differences between psychoanalysis and 
critique, because he is more interested in finding a certain support in 
psychoanalysis than in identifying divergences. It may be that the principal 
difference has precisely to do with the absence in critique of something 
comparable to the experience of communication in the transference situa- 
tion. The absence of transference in social critique makes more obvious 
the Utopian status of its claim to cure the diseases of communication. The 
psychoanalyst does not need to be Utopian, because he or she has the 
experience, even if a limited one, of the successful reestablishment of 
communication. The sociologist, on the other hand, does not have this 
experience, since he or she remains at the level of the class struggle, and 
so without this miniature of recognition that is the situation of the 

The fundamental thesis of chapters ten through twelve is that psycho- 
analysis is distinctive because it incorporates a phase of explanation in a 
process that is fundamentally self -reflective. Psychoanalysis is self-reflec- 

Habermas (2) 

tion mediated by an explanatory phase. Explanation is not an alternative 
to understanding but a segment of the process as a whole. In exploring the 
nature of the psychoanalytic model, Habermas proceeds in three steps. 
The first examines the paradoxical structure of psychoanalysis, paradoxical 
because it encompasses both understanding and explanation. This para- 
doxical structure explains why there are so many misunderstandings of 
psychoanalysis, misunderstandings which are not entirely unfounded. 
Freud and his followers did not themselves maintain the relation between 
understanding and explanation but instead attempted to reduce the process 
to an explanatory, even merely causal, framework of thought. In the 
eleventh chapter Habermas calls this an "energy-distribution model" (247) . 
Habermas, though, insists that the paradoxical structure of psychoanalysis 
must be upheld, because psychoanalysis deals with both linguistic analysis 
and causal connection. Freud's genius is that he preserved the balance 
between these two factors, even though he did not maintain this balance 
in his metapsychology. The paradoxical structure of psychoanalysis is a 
consequence of the psychoanalytic situation itself, since it involves not only 
a distorted text but a systematically distorted text. We must insist that the 
distortions are systematic. Philology, in comparison, is an instance of mere 
linguistic analysis. It examines distortions — mutilated texts, errors in copy- 
ing a text, and so on — and requires us to establish the text through the 
critique, but it does not encompass systematic distortions. We must not 
only interpret what is distorted; we must explain the distortions them- 
selves. Thus we have the conjunction of "linguistic analysis with the psy- 
chological investigation of causal connections" (217). This conjunction is 
also the fundamental reason for the epistemological ambiguity of 

Psychoanalytic interpretation is concerned with those connections of symbols in 
which a subject deceives itself about itself. The depth hermeneutics that Freud 
contraposes to Dilthey's philological hermeneutics deals with texts indicating self- 
deceptions of the author. Beside the manifest content . . . , such texts document 
the latent content of a portion of the author's orientations that has become inac- 
cessible to him and alienated from him and yet belongs to him nevertheless. Freud 
coins the phrase "internal foreign territory" to capture the character of the alienation 
of something that is still the subject's very own. (218; emphases in original; quoting 
New Introductory Lectures on Psychoanalysis) 

Because the latent content is inaccessible to the author, a detour through 
an explanatory method is required. Note also in this passage that Habermas 

Habermas (2) 


calls Freud's method "depth hermeneutics." Again this reinforces that a 
dividing line between hermeneutics and critical science cannot be 

A good example of the duality of language in psychoanalysis may be 
found in analysis of the dream. On the one hand, a certain linguistic analysis 
is required. The dream needs hermeneutic decoding, it is a text to decipher. 
Here the language of the method is philological. On the other hand, 
however, the need to explain the distortion of the dream calls for a theory 
of dream work and a technique addressed to the resistances opposed to 
interpretation. Here the language fs quasi-physical. All the terms in the 
sixth chapter of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams involve mechanisms 
of distortion : condensation, displacement, representability, and secondary 
revision. This vocabulary of censorship and repression belongs to an en- 
ergetics and not to a hermeneutics. Yet this does not prevent us from saying 
that the distorted meaning is still a question of communication. The dream- 
er is excommunicated from the linguistic community, but excommunica- 
tion is a distortion of communication. Habermas has several phrases that 
circle this paradox. To excommunicate is to "exclude from public com- 
munication." Relations are "delinguisticized"; language is "privatized." 
We have "the degrammaticized language of the dream" (224). Present is 
the Wittgensteinian notion of language games; the excommunication of the 
dream is a disease in the language games that make up communication. 

The object domain of depth hermeneutics comprises all the places where, owing 
to internal disturbances, the textfs] of our everyday language games are interrupted 
by incomprehensible symbols. These symbols cannot be understood because they 
do not obey the grammatical rules of ordinary language, norms of action, and 
culturally learned patterns of expression. (226) 

"Because the symbols that interpret suppressed needs are excluded from 
public communication, the speaking and acting subject's communication 
with himself is interrupted" (227) . The first point about the psychoanalytic 
model, then, is that it treats symptoms, dreams, and all pathological or 
quasi-pathological phenomena as cases of excommunication based on sys- 
tematic distortion, and these systematic distortions all require explanation 
in order to be dissolved. 

Habermas' second point is that in psychoanalysis the analytic situation 
is paradigmatic. This theme will be central to our discussion of the rela- 
tionship between psychoanalysis and the critique of ideology. For Haber- 


Habermas (2) 

mas, the most interesting philosophic contribution of Freud is his papers 
on analytic technique, that is, his papers on the situation of transference. 
Here an artificial circumstance of communication is created in which the 
basic situation of excommunication is transposed and dealt with. Haber- 
mas' claim is that we must construe a metapsychology upon the paradigm 
supplied by these papers on technique and not the reverse. In his meta- 
psychology Freud elaborated two different models, first the topological 
model for the mental apparatus — the unconscious, preconscious, and con- 
scious — and second the model of superego, ego, and id. Habermas argues 
that these models are diagrammatic representations of something which 
happens in the situation of transference. Therefore, the analytic technique 
must rule the metapsychological model and not the contrary. Unfortu- 
nately, says Habermas, the stance that evolved in both Freud and the 
Freudian school was to start from the model and to interpret what happens 
in the analytical situation according to this model; Freud and his followers 
forgot that the model was in fact derived from the analytical experience. 

Habermas' assessment of Freud here has an interesting parallelism with 
his approach to Marx. As we have seen, Habermas argues that what Marx's 
inquiry actually does is more important than what Marx says that it does. 
Marx's inquiry maintains the distinction between relations of production 
and forces of production, even while this dialectic is abolished in a unidi- 
mensional model involving only the structures of production. In order to 
rescue Marx we have to rescue Freud, for Freud's insights into the situation 
of transference help to revitalize understanding of the import of the rela- 
tions of production. In a sense our task is the same in both Marx and 
Freud: we must appeal to their real, concrete contribution to technical 
inquiry and must plead on the basis of these inquiries' real indications 
against Marx's and Freud's explanatory models. Their actual inquiries 
must rule their models and not the reverse. 

Before saying something about the transcription of Freud's inquiry into 
the psychoanalytic model, we should say something about the analytic 
experience itself. This common experience between patient and analyst is 
the experience of agenesis of self-consciousness (228) . This, for Habermas, 
is a central perception of psychoanalysis and a key to the critique of 
ideology. The aim of class struggle is recognition, but we know what 
recognition means on the basis of the psychoanalytical situation. Freud's 
important formula summarizes the analytic insight: "Wo Es war, soil Ich 
werden"; where the id was, the ego must become. The first reason why 

Habermas (2) 


the analytic situation is paradigmatic for psychoanalysis, then, is because 
self-recognition rules its whole process. 

The second reason why the analytic situation is paradigmatic is because 
self-recognition is an aim achieved by dissolving resistances. The concept 
of resistance in psychoanalysis will become the model for ideology. An 
ideology is a system of resistance; it resists recognition of where we are, 
who we are, and so on. The crucial insight of psychoanalysis here is that 
intellectual understanding of the system of resistance is not sufficient. Even 
if a patient understands his or her situation intellectually, this information 
is useless as long as it has not led to a restructuration of the libidinal 
economy. For a parallel in the social world, we might look to the role of 
the mass media. To whatever extent that media inform us about the real 
nature of power in society, this knowledge is useless in itself because it has 
no impact on the distribution of power. The liberal system of information 
is neutralized by the real system of power. This is my own example and 
not in the text. In fact, Habermas himself does not offer explicit compar- 
isons between Freud and Marx on this question of the proper model for 
the critical sciences. We are the ones who have to make this effort. Haber- 
mas draws a connection between Freud and Marx only later, when speaking 
in the twelfth chapter of Marx's theory of culture. At the present stage, 
Habermas' focus is on Freud alone. The analytic situation is an exemplary 
model for the critical social sciences because it is based on a theory of 
resistance. The task of analysis is to dissolve resistances by a kind of work, 
what Freud called Durcharbeitung, a working- through. "Working-through 
designates the dynamic component of a cognitive activity that leads to 
recognition only against resistances" (231). This is a good definition, be- 
cause it integrates three concepts: a cognitive activity that leads to recog- 
nition through dealing with resistances. 

I shall only allude to the fact that Habermas incorporates into this process 
the reconstruction of a life history (233). For those of us interested in the 
constitution of narratives — as story, as history — there is much available in 
Habermas' discussion of the narrative structure of the analytic experience. 
Because it involves a life history, its criteria are not those of verification. 
Its concern is not with facts but with the capacity to make a significant 
whole of our life story. The reconstruction of one's life history reverses the 
process of splitting-off that typifies excommunication. 

If cognitive activity, the overcoming of resistance, and recognition are 
the implications of the psychoanalytic situation, this kernel experience is 


Habermas (2) 

transformed by Freud into a structural model (237). This transformation 
is Habermas' third general point about psychoanalysis. Habermas thinks 
of this development as applicable particularly to The Ego and the Id, written 
in 1923, but the transformation is apparent in all Freud's successive models, 
as in the writings of 1895 and in the model of the seventh chapter of The 
Interpretation of Dreams, written in 1900. Habermas argues that the struc- 
tural model is legitimate because we have to introduce casual connections 
within a process that is more generally interpretive. The process is in- 
terpretive but includes causal episodes. As long as we remain aware of the 
derivation of the structural model from the analytic situation, there is no 
danger of its abuse. When this model is isolated from the situation that it 
describes, however, then it becomes an ideology. (Use of the term "ide- 
ology" at this point is not Habermas' vocabulary but my own.) When 
separated from the analytic experience, the structural model becomes an 
objectification by which psychoanalysis denies its affiliation with depth 
hermeneutics and claims to imitate the natural sciences. 

Indeed, many texts in Freud do maintain that psychoanalysis is a natural 
science. There are several reasons, I think, why Freud takes this step. 
First, Freud had to fight so hard for recognition that he had to claim to be 
a scientist. The only way for him to be recognized was as a scientist. 
Second, his own training in physiology led him to think that psychoanalysis 
was only a provisory stage and that one day it would be replaced by 
pharmacology. Psychoanalysis is necessary only because we ignore or do 
not understand some of the workings of the brain. This point is odd, 
because his emphasis throughout on self-understanding is incompatible 
with a science like pharmacology. 

In any event, we may reappropriate the structural model if we keep in 
mind its derivation from the experience of analysis. Within this framework 
a term like the id makes sense because we may take it as literally the neutral. 
Because some parts of ourselves are no longer recognized, are excommun- 
icated not only from others but from ourselves, they then must appear as 
a thing. The id describes well the existence of a part of our experience that 
we no longer understand, something to which we no longer have access 
and so is like a thing. The id is the name of what has been excommunicated. 

The concept of excommunication rules the structural model. Because 
excommunication itself belongs to the system of the concepts of commu- 
nicative action, a species of communicative action provides the key for a 
model that is quasi-naturalistic. 

Habermas (2) 


It seems to me more plausible to conceive the act of repression as a banishment of 
need interpretations themelves. The degrammaticized and imagistically com- 
pressed language of the dream provides some clues to an excommunication model 
of this sort. This process would be the intrapsychic imitation of a specific category 
of punishment, whose efficacy was striking especially in archaic times: the ex- 
pulsion, ostracism, and isolation of the criminal from the social group whose 
language he shares. The splitting-off of individual symbols from public commu- 
nication would mean at the same time the privatization of their semantic content. 

I like very much this part of Habermas' analysis. Only by a process of 
internal banishment is there something like an id. The id is not a given 
but a product of expulsion. I think that this is an orthodox interpretation 
of Freud ; repression is produced not by natural forces but by forces under 
certain cultural circumstances. Repression is not a mechanical phenome- 
non, it is the expression in causal language of what happens when we do 
not recognize ourselves, when we banish ourselves from our own company. 

In concluding our discussion of Habermas' characterization of psycho- 
analysis, we may say that his general argument is: "The language of 
[psychoanalytic] theory is narrower than the language in which the tech- 
nique was described" (245). For Habermas this comment is just as impor- 
tant as when he said that an interpretation of Marx in mechanistic terms 
cannot give an account of Marx's critique, since the critique is not a part 
of the mechanistic system. Similarly in Freud, if we deal with a mechanistic 
model of psychoanalysis, we cannot give an account of the process of self- 
reflection that the analytic experience requires. "Strangely enough, the 
structural model denies the origins of its own categories in a process of 
enlightenment" (245). This statement provides us with the transition to 
the last topic in our analysis of Habermas. We must discuss how the process 
of enlightenment — Aufklarung, the name of the eighteenth-century phi- 
losophy — orients Habermas' critique, a critique whose interest is in eman- 
cipation. To what extent is enlightenment, understood as emancipation, a 
Utopian element at the center of the critique of ideology? 

Two problems merit our attention here. First, we must consider to what 
extent the psychoanalytic model helps us to construe the concept of a 
critique of ideology. We must ascertain the principle of this parallelism 
and the range of its extension. We must consider, second, to what extent 
there is a Utopian component in the concept of self-reflection and in the 
concept of critique in general. I shall link these two questions, because I 
think that the difference finally between psychoanalysis and ideology- 

Habermas (2) 

critique is that the element of Utopia in the latter is irreducible. This 
conclusion is more a personal interpretation than a strict reading of Ha- 
bermas' text. 

As I have mentioned previously, in Knowledge and Human Interests 
Habewnas strangely says only very little about the possibility of transferring 
to the critique of ideology some of his conclusions about psychoanalysis. 
The reader is the one who generally has to extract these consequences. On 
the basis of our reading, I shall try to draw these comparisons between 
psychoanalysis and ideology-critique, and I shall proceed in a certain order, 
from what is the most similar to what is the least similar. We shall end by 
raising the question of these two enterprises' fundamental difference. 

There are foup main points where the psychoanalytic model is transfer- 
able to the critique of ideology. The detour through psychoanalysis illus- 
trates first that self-reflection is the principal motive of the critical social 
sciences as a whole. Psychoanalysis is exemplary because it is a process of 
self-recovery, of self-understanding. A second transferable aspect is that 
in both psychoanalysis and ideology-critique, distortions belong to the 
same level of experience as emancipation. Distortions occur within the 
process of communication. Thus, we are compelled to speak even of class 
struggle in terms of communication. Class struggle involves not only con- 
flicting forces but a disruption of a process of communication between 
human beings. People become strangers; in different classes people do not 
speak the same language. Excommunication extends even to the level of 
style, grammar, the amplitude of the lexicon, and so on. The difference is 
not only between groups' linguistic tools, though, but between the symbolic 
systems through which they look at one another. 

[J]ust as in the clinical situation, so in society, pathological compulsion itself is 
accompanied by the interest in its abolition. Both the pathology of social institutions 
and that of individual consciousness reside in the medium of language and of 
communicative action and assume the form of a structural deformation of com- 
munication. (288) 

Freud helps us to reread Marx in terms of processes of communication not 
just when Marx speaks of forces but throughout. 

The third point of commonality between psychoanalysis and the critique 
of ideology is that because their distortions are systematic, we cannot expect 
dissolution of these distortions by mere extension of our ordinary capacity 
to communicate. The ordinary means of interpretation which constitute 

Habermas (2) 

conversation are useless, because we are faced not with misunderstanding 
but systematic distortion. This requires us to apply an intermediary tech- 
nique, the detour of causal explanation. In both psychoanalysis and ide- 
ology-critique, then, the movement from excommunication to the reestab- 
lishment of communication has an explanatory phase which implies that 
we construe a theoretical model for dealing with this segment of concealed 
and reified processes. 

This leads us to the fourth and final parallelism: the structural model in 
which we deal with the casual connections must always be derived from 
the situation of communication, but the model can become abstracted from 
this situation and so reified. For Habermas there is a complete parallelism 
here between what happened in Marxism and in psychoanalysis; the model 
of each was abstracted from the original situation for which it was conceived 
and became a reified structural model. The energy-distribution model in 
Freud has the same ambiguous status as superstructure and infrastructure 
in the orthodox Marxist model. 

Turning to a second group of statements, we can see where the compar- 
ison between psychoanalysis and ideology-critique begins to fail. Discrep- 
ancy starts to arise when we attempt to identify what Marx and Freud each 
emphasize in the human fabric of culture. "[W]hat interests [Marx] as the 
natural basis of history is the physical organization specific to the human 
species under the category of possible labor: the tool-making animal. 
Freud's focus, in contrast, was not the system of social labor but the family" 
(282). A human being is described by Marx as a tool user and by Freud as 
someone who remains a child even after having moved beyond the age of 
childhood. With Freud the fundamental problem is not labor but the 
instinctual renunciations by which a cultural system may function. In 
Freud's three great texts on culture — The Future of an Illusion, Civilization 
and Its Discontents, and Moses and Monotheism — everything is measured 
in terms of libidinal loss, the libidinal pleasures that must be sacrificed in 
order that one may be a member of society. Freud's view of culture is a 
pessimistic one, because he thinks society functions only on the basis of 
the compensations, prohibitions, and sublimations that protect the social 
system. Freud "concentrates on the origins of the motivational foundation 
of communicative action" (283). 

This divergence between Marx and Freud begins to appear in chapter 
twelve of the text, the only place where there is a direct comparison between 
both figures. Habermas writes of "the psychoanalytic key to a social theory 


Habermas (2) 

that converges in a surprising manner with Marx's reconstruction of the 
history of the species while in another regard advancing specifically new 
perspectives" (276). The parallelism does not extend all that far because 
Freud's concern is limited to the fact that a human being is more than an 
animal only because of the renunciation of instinct. Habermas quotes a 
striking and in many ways terrifying assertion from Freud's The Future of 
an Illusion: "every individual is virtually an enemy of civilization ..." 
(277). Society must take measures against this destructive dimension, a 
dimension linked by Freud to sadism and to the death instinct. The latter 
in particular seems to have no parallel in Marx. For Freud guilt is the 
guardian of the city against disruption by the individual. Habermas 

The last assertion, that everyone is virtually an enemy of civilization, already points 
up the difference between Freud and Marx. Marx conceives the institutional 
framework as an ordering of interests that are immediate functions of the system 
of social labor according to the relation of social rewards and imposed obligations. 
Institutions derive their force from perpetuating a distribution of rewards and 
obligations that is rooted in force and distorted according to class structure. Freud, 
on the contrary, conceives the institutional framework in connection with the 
repression of instinctual impulses. (277; emphasis in original) 

Repression is fundamental for Freud, whereas in Marx it is a supplement, 
a distortion introduced by the division of labor and by the class structure. 
For some time Freud had a certain sympathy for the Bolshevik enterprise, 
but he also viewed it with caution, because he perceived that a political 
experiment which did not fundamentally change the balance of instincts 
was not a real revolution. 

In spite of these differences between Freud and Marx, however, Freud 
may still be helpful at this second level of comparison. At this second stage, 
there is a balance of difference and similarities between psychoanalysis and 
ideology-critique, whereas in the first part there were only similarities. 
What remains paradigmatic in Freud is the kind of hope that he proposes. 
This may be more difficult to find in Marx, because as long as the class 
structure has not been overcome, then the rationality of human existence 
cannot be established. In contrast, we may observe in the process of 
psychoanalysis something of the emergence of self-understanding and self- 

To discuss this dimension of psychoanalysis, which affects not only the 
second stage of its comparison with the critique of ideology but the third, 

Habermas (2) 


where the lack of parallelism comes to the fore, I shall concentrate on pages 
284-90 of the text. As far as I know, these are the only pages outside the 
appendix where the word "utopia" occurs. Habermas views Freud as a man 
of the eighteenth century, a man of the Enlightenment, and this is surely 
correct. Habermas understands the aim of the Enlightenment to be advo- 
cacy of the rationality of Utopia, promotion of a rational hope. "The ideas 
of the Enlightenment stem from the store of historically transmitted illu- 
sions. Hence we must comprehend the actions of the Enlightenment as the 
attempt to test the limit of the readability of the Utopian content of cultural 
tradition under given conditions" (284). This statement is linked to an idea 
developed in the late writings of Freud, when Freud differentiates between 
illusion and delusion. A delusion is an irrational belief, whereas an illusion 
represents the possibilities of rational human being. Habermas quotes 
Freud's New Introductory Lectures: " 'My illusions are not, like religious 
ones, incapable of correction. They have not the character of a delusion. 
If experience should show . . . that we have been mistaken, we will give 
up our expectations' " (284). Freud advances the notion of a tempered 
Utopian mind, a mind tempered by the spirit of the Enlightenment, by the 
spirit of rationality. Why is this notion present in Freud ? "Freud encounters 
this unity of reason and interest in the situation in which the physician's 
Socratic questioning can aid a sick person's self-reflection only under path- 
ological conjpJsion and the corresponding interest in abolishing this com- 
pulsion" (287). There is an identity of interest and reason which gives to 
hope a rational content. This quality may be what is lacking in any sug- 
gested parallelism between ideology-critique and psychoanalysis. 

We now reach the point where emphasis should be placed on the lack of 
parallelism between psychoanalysis and the critique of ideology. To my 
mind, the fundamental difference is that there is nothing in the critique of 
ideology comparable to the psychoanalytic relation between patient and 
physician. It is not by chance that Habermas never speaks of the parallelism 
between ideology-critique and psychoanalysis when developing the notion 
that the patient-physician relation is paradigmatic in psychoanalysis and 
that the structural model is derived from this situation. We must inquire 
ourselves whether there is anything similar in the critique of ideology. The 
important text here is the one just cited for the stage of transition. Let me 
begin several lines earlier than before: 

The analytic situation makes real the unity of intuition and emancipation, of insight 
and liberation from dogmatic dependence, and of reason and the interested em- 


Habermas (2) 

ployment of reason developed by Fichte in the concept of self-reflection. . . . Freud 
encounters this unity of reason and interest in the situation in which the physician's 
Socratic questioning can aid a sick person's self-reflection . . ." (287). 

The analytic situation makes real (vrirklich) the unity of intuition and 
emancipation, and the physician's Socratic questioning supplies the aid for 
this to occur. This relationship between patient and physician is unique to 
the psychoanalytic situation. It is sometimes presented, at least in this 
country, even as a contractual relationship. Someone calls himself or herself 
the patient, and someone else is trained as. a physician and recognized as 
the physician by the patient. There is recognition of the situation that I 
am ill, I call for help, and you are the one who can help me. The situation 
is, in HabermasVdefinition of the term, dialogic, not in the sense of shared 
experience — the analyst is abstinent and shares nothing — but in the sense 
that the analyst is present to the patient and offers aid. 

This initial situation of the doctor-patient relationship has no parallel in 
ideology-critique. In ideology-critique no one identifies himself or herself 
as the ill, as the patient, and no one is entitled to be the physician. Some 
might argue that to a certain extent the sociologist or the writer is able to 
take on the role of physician, but this raises the problem of whether there 
can really be a value-free thinker. In a way the psychoanalyst in the analytic 
situation may be a value-free thinker, because he or she is the object of 
transference. I do not see, however, what would be a similar position in 
ideology-critique, because even the thinker is part of the polemical situa- 
tion. The thinker does not transcend the polemical situation, and so the 
notion of ideology remains a polemical concept for the thinker also. The 
psychoanalyst, on the other hand, does not use the concept of neurosis as 
a polemical tool against the patient. The lack of parallelism here between 
psychoanalysis and ideology-critique has dreadful consequences for the 
status of the latter, since it becomes a member of its own referent. The 
status of ideology-critique itself belongs to the polemical situation of ide- 
ology. This is the first point where the parallelism between psychoanalysis 
and the critique of ideology fails. 

The second point where the parallelism fails is that there is nothing in 
ideology-critique comparable to the psychoanalytic situation of transfer- 
ence. Transference is the decisive procedure where what happened on the 
neurotic scene is transposed onto the miniature and artificial scene of the 
patient-physician relation. It constitutes an intermediary scene between 
the neurotic scene and the original infantile scene. The art of creating this 

Habermns (2) 


intermediary and artificial situation gives the psychoanalytic experience its 
efficiency. Once again I wonder whether, for example, an ideology-cri- 
tique's examination of class affiliation can play the same role as this trans- 
ference situation. 

The third and final point where parallelism fails is in the lack of recog- 
nition intrinsic to ideology-critique. The relation between physician and 
patient is not only a situation of contract and not only a procedure of 
transference; it is also an occasion where mutual recognition is finally 
implied. We cannot say, however, that recognition is at work in Ideolo- 
giekritik. In Lenin and Philosophy, for example, Althusser radically denies 
the possibility of recognition. We must draw the party line, he says, 
between the Marxist intellectual and the bourgeois intellectual. At least for 
the orthodox Marxists the situation is one of war, and we must take this 
perspective as exemplary rather than that of those other Marxists who are 
more tamed and humanized. In the orthodox claim, the notion of recog- 
nition is a projection only about the classless society. In the classless society 
there will be recognition, but we cannot say that recognition gives its thrust 
to the current enterprise. 

My criticism is not so much an argument against Habermas as an analysis 
for the sake of the problem itself, that psychoanalysis and ideology-critique 
have different criteria of success. We may agree that there are certain 
therapeutic moments in ideology-critique. Even if we are not Marxists, 
when we read Marx it is a personal event, and one that transforms our 
outlook on society. We are less deceived by the appearances of democracy 
and so on . So this change has both direct and indirect political implications. 
Dissident voices are fundamental to the democratic process itself. We must 
preserve this margin of dissidence for the sake of inner critique. We may 
also say that ideology-critique can lead to conscientization, a theme devel- 
oped by Latin American thinkers such as Paulo Freire. This too is a form 
of political therapy. In general, though, ideology-critique lacks an imme- 
diate, experiential component. It functions much more at the level of 
analysis of the wheels of the social machinery. Though ideology-critique 
may have some therapeutic results, its purpose is still critique. Psycho- 
analysis, on the other hand, includes both critique and cure. The function 
of therapy is to cure, but virtually no one is cured by the process of ideology- 
critique. Many are wounded but very few are cured. 

Ideology-critique is part of a process of struggle and not one of recog- 
nition. The idea of free communication remains an unfulfilled ideal, a 


Habermas (2) 

regulative idea, an "illusion" in the sense the Freud distinguishes the term 
from delusion. Perhaps here a Utopian element fills the gap that the expe- 
rience of recognition satisfies in the psychoanalytic situation. The Utopian 
element is linked to the absent counterpart of the psychoanalytic situation. 
What suggests this relationship is Habermas' appeal to the Utopian thematic 
at this point in his discussion of Freud. 

That is why for the social system, too, the interest inherent in the pressure of 
suffering is also immediately an interest in enlightenment; and reflection is the 
only possible dynamic through which it realizes itself. The interest of reason inclines 
toward the progressive, critical-revolutionary, but tentative realization of the major 
illusions of humanity, in which repressed motives have been elaborated into fan- 
tasies of hope. (288; emphasis added) 

Habermas adds, several lines later: "The 'good' is neither a convention nor 
an essence, but rather the result of fantasy. But it must be fantasied so 
exactly that it corresponds to and articulates a fundamental interest: the 
interest in that measure of emancipation that historically is objectively 
possible under given and manipulable conditions." The German for fantasy 
is Phantasie, and it means not fancy but imagination. So Habermas' dis- 
cussion, I was pleased to see, is about the social imagination. 

In more recent work, Habermas tries to respond to criticisms about the 
lack of parallelism between psychoanalysis and ideology-critique by ad- 
vancing the notion of communicative competence. Communicative com- 
petence is a Utopian construction, an ideal speech situation, the possibility 
of undistorted communication. Recourse to this concept, however, raises 
questions about the nature of the Utopian element that are similar to those 
arising from our reading of Knowledge and Human Interests. The word 
"competence" is used ambigously. On the one hand, a competence is 
something at our disposal, a potentiality that we can either use or not use. 
It is the correlate of performance in Chomsky. Because I am competent to 
speak French, I can perform a sentence in French. Communicative com- 
petence, however, is not something at our disposal but rather something 
that must appear as a Kantian Idea, a regulative idea. My question is 
whether we can have this idea without a certain anthropology or an ontology 
in which it makes sense for dialogue to succeed. This is the permanent 
argument of Gadamer in his discussion with Habermas. If we do not 
understand the poet Holderlin when he speaks of das Gesprdch das wir 
sind, the dialogue that we are, then we cannot make sense of the dialogue 
that we ought to be. If we have no ontology in which dialogue is constitutive 

Habermas (2) 

of who we are, then can we have this communicative ideal? Perhaps it is 
merely a matter of emphasis, though, and Habermas' question is how can 
we understand the dialogue that we are if not through the Utopia of a 
communication without boundary and constraint. 

As for myself, I assume completely the inextricable role of this Utopian 
element, because I think that it is ultimately constitutive of any theory of 
ideology. It is always from the depth of a Utopia that we may speak of an 
ideology. This was the case with the young Marx when he spoke of the 
whole human being, the famous person who went fishing in the morning, 
hunting in the afternoon, and in the evening did critique. This reconstruc- 
tion of a totality lying beyond the division of labor, this vision of an integral 
human being, is the Utopia which allows us to say that the British econo- 
mists did not dig beneath the surface of the economic relations between 
wage, capital, and work. 

I want to conclude by saying a few words about the structure of Utopia. 
For my part, I see Utopia as itself a complex network of elements with 
different origins. It is not something simple but a cluster of forces working 
together. Utopia is supported first by the notion of self-reflection. This is 
the main notion of Utopia, and it is the teleological component of all 
critique, of all analysis, of all restoration of communication. I call it the 
transcendental component. This factor preserves the unity between ide- 
ology-critique and German idealism and also finally the unity between 
ideology-critique and the whole tradition of philosophy in spite of Haber- 
mas' claim that we have broken with theory for the sake of praxis. What 
remains common to theory and praxis is this element of self-reflection, 
something which is not historical but transcendental, in the sense that it 
has no date, no point of historical origin, but is instead the fundamental 
possibility of being human. When the young Marx speaks of the difference 
between animal and human being, he draws a line; the difference is an 
element of transcendence available only to human being. I prefer to say 
this factor is transcendental, because it is the condition of possibility for 
doing something else. 

The second component of the Utopian structure is cultural. This attri- 
bute is modern and comes from the tradition of the Enlightenment ; it adds 
to the element of fantasy the possibility of correction, of testing the limits 
of realizability. To repeat a quotation already cited: "The ideas of the 
Enlightenment stem from the store of historically transmitted illusions. 
Hence we must comprehend the actions of the Enlightenment as the 


Habermas (2) 

attempt to test the limit of the readability of the Utopian content of cultural 
tradition under given conditions" (284). The ideas are transmitted histor- 
ically. The Utopia is then not merely a transcendental element without 
history, for it is part of our history. This allows me to say that perhaps the 
great difference between Gadamer and Habermas is that they do not have 
the same traditions. Gadamer relies more on the tradition of German 
idealism plus Romanticism, whereas for Habermas it is more the Enlight- 
enment plus German idealism. That Habermas and Gadamer are both 
situated historically is inevitable; no one is outside all tradition. Even 
emphasis on self-reflection has a certain tradition. Self-reflection has both 
an ahistorical factor, what I have called its transcendental component, and 
a cultural component, a history. When Habermas speaks of the unity of 
interests and reason (287, 289), this is typically a theme of the 

The third element of the Utopian structure is fantasy. Fantasy is Haber- 
mas' term for what Freud calls illusion. Illusion is differentiated, we 
remember, from delusion, where delusion is both the unverifiable and the 
unrealizable. Illusion or fantasy is the element of hope, a rational hope. 
Habermas develops this theme not only in his discussion of Freud but also 
in his systematic theses in the appendix. In the latter, Habermas says that 
humanity is rooted in fundamental structures like work, language, and 
power. He adds, though, that there is also something in us which transcends 
this conditionality, and this is the Utopian. Habermas specifically uses the 
word "utopian" in this context. "[SJociety is not only a system of self- 
preservation. An enticing natural force, present in the individual as libido, 
has detached itself from the behavioral system of self-preservation and 
urges toward Utopian fulfillment" (312). Fantasy is that which "urges 
toward Utopian fulfillment." Habermas' opposition between Utopia and 
self-preservation is a good insight into the relation between ideology and 
Utopia in their best senses. As we shall see with Geertz, the fundamental 
function of an ideology is to establish identity, whether the identity of a 
group or of an individual. Utopia, on the other hand, breaks with the 
"system of self-preservation and urges toward Utopian fulfillment." For 
Habermas, realization of this Utopian element's role leads to the thesis that 
"knowledge equally serves as an instrument and transcends mere self- 
preservation" (313). Utopia is precisely what preserves the three knowl- 
edge-constitutive interests — the instrumental, the practical, and the criti- 
cal — from being reduced to one. The utopian opens the spectrum of 
interests and prevents it from beingclosed or collapsed to the instrumental . 

Habermas (2) 


It may be, then, that Utopia, in the positive sense of the term, extends 
to the boundary line between the possible and the impossible which perhaps 
cannot be rationalized finally even in the form of rational hope. May we 
not say therefore that this Utopian factor is irreducible, that ideology- 
critique cannot rely on an experience similar to that of transference in 
psychoanalysis, where the process of liberation may lead to self-recognition 
under the guidance of an actual, mutual recognition? It may even be that 
full mutual recognition is a Utopian element in all therapy itself. The 
Utopian fantasy is that of an ideal speech act, an ideal communicative 
situation, the notion of communication without boundary and without 
constraint. It may be that this ideal constitutes our very notion of human- 
kind. We speak of humanity not only as a species but as in fact a task, since 
humanity is given nowhere. The Utopian element may be the notion of 
humanity that we are directed toward and that we unceasingly attempt to 
bring to life. 

Before turning to the more detailed discussion of Utopia in the final three 
lectures, we shall close our analysis of ideology with the following lecture 
on Clifford Geertz. Habermas has been a figure of transition. He establishes 
the possibility of a social critique that avoids Mannheim's paradox, the 
division between ideology and science, he builds on Weber and shows that 
only at the end of the process of critique can we recover as our own work 
what are the claims of authority, and he alerts us that this recovery moves 
from excommunication and desymbolization to recognition and commu- 
nication. On the last point he anticipates Geertz, who demonstrates that 
ideology must be understood on the basis of the symbolic structure of 
action, a conclusion that moves us beyond distortion and legitimation to 
the third and final level of ideology, a nonpejorative concept of ideology as 



We end our regressive analysis of ideology 1 by discussion of Clifford 
Geertz. Discussion of Geertz is the last step in an analysis that covers three 
main stages. We started from the surface concept of ideology as distortion. 
When we read The German Ideology, we asked how can we make sense of 
Marx's assertion that a ruling class is expressed by ruling ideas, ideas which 
become the ruling ideas of an epoch. We recognized that at this stage the 
concept of ideology was systematic distortion, and we saw that in order to 
approach this first concept, we had to take into account a concept of 
interest — class interest — apply an attitude of suspicion, and proceed to a 
causal dismantlement of these distortions. Here the paradigmatic model 
was the relation between superstructure and infrastructure. 

We then raised the question, how does it make sense to have a distorting 
thought caused by such structures as class structures? We were led to ask 
what is implied in the notions of ruling class and ruling idea. Our answer 
was the problem of authority. This uncovered the second concept of 
ideology, ideology as legitimation. Here we introduced discussion of Max 
Weber, since the paradigmatic case was no longer a class interest but the 
claim to legitimacy made by all forms of authority. Our focus was the gap 
within a group between the leader's claim to authority and the members' 
belief in this authority. The attitude of analysis at this second stage was 
not suspicion but the value-free attitude of the sociologist. Further, the 
conceptual framework was not causality but motivation, and we spoke of 
this framework not in terms of structures and forces but in terms of the 
ideal types of the authority's claims. In this second stage the ideal types of 
claims played the same role as the superstructure in the first stage. 

It is to build a third concept of ideology as integration or identity that 



we finally resort to Geertz. At this stage, we reach the level of symboliza- 
tion, something that can be distorted and something within which lies the 
process of legitimation. Here the main attitude is not at all suspicion nor 
even the value-free but conversation. Geertz himself comes to this attitude 
as an anthropologist. In The Interpretation of Cultures, Geertz says of his 
ethnographic research : "We are seeking, in the widened sense of the term 
in which it encompasses very much more than talk, to converse with [people 
of another culture] , a matter a great deal more difficult, and not only with 
strangers, than is commonly recognized" (13). "Looked at in this way," 
Geertz continues, 

the aim of anthropology is the enlargement of the universe of human discourse. 
. . . [I]t is an aim to which a semiotic concept of culture is peculiarly well adapted. 
As interworked systems of construable signs (what, ignoring pr6vincial usages, I 
would call symbols), culture is not a power, something to which social events, 
behaviors, institutions, or processes can be causally attributed; it is a context, 
something within which they can be intelligibly — that is, thickly — described. (14) 

In conversation we have an interpretive attitude. If we speak of ideology 
in negative terms as distortion, then we use the tool or weapon of suspicion. 
If, however, we want to recognize a group's values on the basis of its self- 
understanding of these values, then we must welcome these values in a 
positive way, and this is to converse. 

This attitude is linked to a conceptual framework which is not causal or 
structural or even motivational but rather semiotic. What particularly 
interests me in Geertz is that he tries to deal with the concept of ideology 
by the instruments of modern semiotics. Geertz declares early in the text, 
"The concept of culture I espouse ... is essentially a semiotic one." What 
he means by this is that analysis of culture is "not an experimental science 
in search of law but an interpretive one in search of meaning." Geertz is 
thus not far from Max Weber, since he follows Weber in believing that 
"man is an animal suspended in webs of significance he himself has spun" 
(5). At this level we address ourselves to motives not as motivational but 
as expressed in signs. The signitive systems of the motives constitute the 
level of reference. 

Because culture is understood as a semiotic process, the concept of 
symbolic action is central for Geertz. This theme is most present in his 
article, "Ideology as a Cultural System," which is included in The Inter- 
pretation of Cultures. This article will be our focus for the rest of the 
discussion in this lecture. Geertz borrows the concept or at least the term 



"symbolic action" from Kenneth Burke (208). It seems that what Geertz 
borrows is more the term than the actual concept, because in the book of 
Burke's that Geertz cites for this notion, The Philosophy of Literary Form 
Studies in Symbolic Action, symbolic action appears to have a different 
meaaingthan it does for Geertz. Burke says that language in fact is symbolic 
action. Geertz's point, though, is that action is symbolic just like language. 
The notion of symbolic action may therefore be deceiving in the context 
that Geertz intends. I prefer to speak of action as symbolically mediated. 
This seems less ambiguous than the term "symbolic action," because sym- 
bolic action is not an action which we undertake but one which we replace 
by signs. This is Burke's concept, that in literature we have symbolic 
action. Literature is symbolic action, whereas here we want to say that 
action itself is symbolic in the sense that it is construed on the basis of 
fundamental symbols. 

Geertz also utilizes the doubtful concept of an extrinsic symbol, in the 
sense of an extrinsic theory of symbolic systems (214 ff.). If I am correct 
in my understanding of Geertz on this point, I think that the expression 
is unfortunate. Geertz wants to show that action is ruled from within by- 
symbols, and he calls these symbols extrinsic, in contrast to another set of 
symbols provided by genetics, where the codes are incorporated in the 
living organism. This differentiation between extrinsic and intrinsic models 
is an attempt to draw the line between models that we find in biology and 
those developed in cultural life. In the latter, all the symbols are imported 
instead of being homogeneous to life. There is a heterogeneity between the 
cultural model and the biological potentiality of life. Geertz's point is that 
the biological plasticity or flexibility of human life does not give us guidance 
for dealing with various cultural situations — scarcity, labor, and so on. 
Therefore, we need a secondary system of symbols and models which are 
no longer natural but cultural models. The salient consideration, then, is 
not so much the fact that these symbols and models are extrinsic to the 
organism as that they function exactly in the same way as the intrinsic 

The defining proposition of the extrinsic theory is that symbol systems 
are matched with other systems. "[TJhought consists of the construction 
and manipulation of symbol systems, which are employed as models of 
other systems, physical, organic, social, psychological, and so forth, in 
such a way that the structure of these other systems ... is, as we say, 
'understood.' " We think and understand by matching "the states and 



processes of symbolic models against the states and processes of the wider 
world" (214). If we enter into a ceremony but do not know the rules of the 
ritual, then all the movements are senseless. To understand is to pair what 
we see with the rules of the ritual. "[A]n object (or an event, an act, an 
emotion) is identified by placing it against the background of an appropriate 
symbol" (215) . We see the movement as performing a mass, as performing 
a sacrifice, and so on. The notion of pairing or matching is the central 
theme. Cultural patterns are therefore programs. They provide, says 
Geertz, "a template or blueprint for the organization of social and psycho- 
logical processes, much as genetic systems provide such a template for the 
organization of organic processes" (216). The semiotic process provides a 

There is a further implication of Geertz's analysis which is I think the 
most significant part of his article, and that is the possibility of comparing 
an ideology with the rhetorical devices of discourse. This may be the point 
where Geertz goes the farthest. In the earlier part of his article, Geertz 
criticizes the more usual theories of ideology — ideology as the represen- 
tation of certain interests, ideology as the product of certain sociopsycho- 
logical strains — for always assuming something that they do not under- 
stand: how the release of a strain becomes a symbol or how an interest is 
expressed in an idea. He claims that most sociologists take for granted what 
it means to say that an interest is "expressed by" something else. How do 
interests become expressed, though? Geertz argues that we can provide an 
answer only by analyzing "how symbols symbolize, how they function to 
mediate meanings" (208). "With no notion of how metaphor, analogy, 
irony, ambiguity, pun, paradox, hyperbole, rhythm, and all the other 
elements of what we lamely call 'style' operate ... in casting personal 
attitudes into public form," we cannot construe "the import of ideological 
assertions" (209). Geertz takes as an example an attack by organized labor 
on the Taft-Hartley Act, where labor assailed the act as being a " 'slave 
labor law' " (209). This metaphor should not be reduced to its literal 
meaning, Geertz says, because it derives its informative value from being 
a metaphor. Its language is not merely distortion, because it says what it 
wants to say by the comparison to and the metaphor of slave labor. The 
phrase is not a literal label but a metaphoric trope (210). 

What is especially intriguing here is Geertz's attempt to connect analysis 
not only to semiology in the broad sense of the word but to the part of 
semiology that deals with figures of speech, with tropology, with rhetorical 


devices that are not necessarily intended to deceive either oneself or others. 
The possibility that rhetoric can be integrative and not necessarily distor- 
tive leads us to a nonpejorative concept of ideology. If we follow this path, 
we may then say that there is something irreducible in the concept of 
ideology. Even if we separate off the other two layers of ideology — ideology 
as distortion and as the legitimation of a system of order or power — the 
integrative function of ideology, the function of preserving an identity, 
remains. It may be that our regressive analysis can go no further, because 
no group and no individual are possible without this integrative function. 

Here I find a provocative similarity between Geertz and Erik Erikson. 
Let me draw the connection briefly. In Erikson's Identity: Youth and Crisis, 
there are several statements about ideology that are very close to Geertz. 
These statements are completely independent of Geertz's influence, we 
may note, since they were written many years before Geertz's article. 
(Geertz himself makes no reference to Erikson.) Erikson calls ideology the 
guardian of identity. "For the social institution which is the guardian of 
identity is what we have called ideology" (133). A number of pages later, 
he writes: "More generally ... an ideological system is a coherent body 
of shared image, ideas, and ideals which . . . provides for the participants 
a coherent, if systematically simplified, over-all orientation in space and 
time, in means and ends" (189—90). Because Erikson raises the problem 
of the condition of identity, he says that we must go beyond the propa- 
gandist concept of ideology, where ideology is "a systematic form of col- 
lective pseudologia" (190). 

On the basis of this analysis of ideology as integrative, I would like to 
emphasize three points. First, by transforming how the concept of ideology 
is construed, we stress the symbolic mediation of action, the fact that there 
is no social action which is not already symbolically mediated. Therefore, 
we can no longer say that ideology is merely a kind of superstructure. The 
distinction between superstructure and infrastructure completely disap- 
pears, because symbolic systems belong already to the infrastructure, to 
the basic constitution of human being. The only aspect of the notion of 
superstructure that we can say possibly remains is the fact that the symbolic 
is "extrinsic," in the sense that it does not belong to organic life. This is 
perhaps more a problem in the term "extrinsic," however, for what is called 
extrinsic is still constitutive of human being. 

A second point is the correlation established between ideology and rhet- 
oric. In some ways Habermas prepared us for this connection, since he 



discussed the problem of ideology in terms of communication or excom- 
munication. Now the correlation is more positive, though, because ideology 
is not the distortion of communication but the rhetoric of basic commu- 
nication. There is a rhetoric of basic communication because we cannot 
exclude rhetorical devices from language; they are an intrinsic part of 
ordinary language. In its function as integration, ideology is similarly basic 
and ineluctable. 

My third point questions whether we are allowed to speak of ideologies 
outside the situation of distortion and so with reference only to the basic 
function of integration. Can we speak of the ideologies of nonmodern 
cultures, cultures which have not entered into the process that Mannheim 
describes as the collapse of universal agreement, if that ever existed? Is 
there ideology where there is no conflict of ideologies? If we look only at 
the integrative function of a culture, and if this function is not challenged 
by an alternative form for providing integration, may we have ideology? 
My doubt is whether we can project ideology on cultures outside the post- 
Enlightenment situation in which all modern cultures are now involved in 
a process not only of secularization but of fundamental confrontation about 
basic ideals. I think that integration without confrontation is pre-ideolog- 
ical. Nevertheless, it is still most important to find among the conditions 
for the possibility of having a distorted function a legitimating function 
and under this legitimating function an integrative function. 

We may also note that the process of deriving the three forms of ideology 
can proceed in the reverse direction. As Geertz observes quite accurately, 
ideology is finally always about power. "[I]t is through the construction of 
ideologies, schematic images of social order, that man makes himself for 
better or worse a political animal." "The function of ideology," he contin- 
ues, "is to make an autonomous politics possible by providing the author- 
itative concepts that render it meaningful, the suasive images by means of 
which it can be sensibly grasped" (218). The notion of the authoritative is 
a kernel concept, because when the problem of integration leads to the 
problem of a system of authority, the third concept of ideology sends us 
back to the second. It is not by chance that a specific place for ideology 
exists in politics, because politics is the location where the basic images of 
a group finally provide rules for using power. Questions of integration lead 
to questions of legitimation, and these in turn lead to questions of distor- 
tion. We are therefore forced to proceed backwards and upwards in this 
hierarchy of concepts. 



A question might be raised asking why I take Geertz's notion that 
ideology provides the "authoritative concepts" that "make an autonomous 
politics possible" as necessarily a statement that ideology is finally about 
political power. Could not the "authoritative concepts" be provided by 
religion, for example? In response, I would say that consistent with themes 
running throughout the lectures, I understand the concept of the author- 
itative as the transition from the integrative function to the legitimation of 
hierarchy. Geertz comes to my aid here, observing in a footnote to the text 
just cited: 

Of course, there are moral, economic, and even aesthetic ideologies, as well as 
specifically political ones, but as very few ideologies of any social prominence lack 
political implications, it is perhaps permissible to view the problem here in this 
somewhat narrowed focus. In any case, the arguments developed for political 
ideologies apply with equal force to nonpolitical ones. (281 n.) 

I am tempted to say that ideology has a broader function than politics to 
the extent that it is integrative. When integration comes to the problem of 
the authoritative function of models, however, then politics becomes the 
focus and the question of identity becomes the frame. What is at stake 
finally in the process of integration — as we have learned from Weber — is 
how we can make the transition from the general notion of a social rela- 
tionship to the notion of rulers and ruled. 

The problem of religion is yet a significant one. We may compare 
Geertz's analysis of ideology with his analysis of religion in "Religion as a 
Cultural System," an article also included in The Interpretation of Cultures. 
It is not the case that ideology replaces religion in modem life; Geertz does 
not relegate religion simply to past societies. I see three basic points on 
which Geertz establishes the continuing role of religion. First, religion is 
the attempt to articulate an ethos and a world view. He never says that 
about ideology. Geertz makes a long analysis about the problem of suffering 
and death and says that the function of a religious system with regard to 
this issue is not to elude suffering but to teach us how to endure suffering. 
It is difficult to say that this is a function only of past societies, because at 
the point when we learn how to suffer, the difference between the ethical 
and the cosmic collapses; we are taught both a way of looking at life and a 
way of behaving. Religion is beyond the opposition between the traditional 
and the modem in a second sense, because its dispositional function allows 
it to establish a mood. Religion provides a fundamental stability at the level 



of our most basic feelings. It is a theory of feelings, and as such it again 
deals with both the ethical and the cosmic. The third point about religion 
is that it stages these feelings through rituals, and we have some residues 
and perhaps even some permanent traditions representing that in modern 
society. Ideology arises not on the collapse of the ritual dimension but from 
the open conflictual situation of modernity. Systems — even religious 
ones — are confronted with other systems which raise similar claims of 
authenticity and legitimacy. We are caught in a situation of ideologies, in 
the plural. 

We may say that Geertz's purpose is not so much to eliminate current 
theories about ideology — ideology as interests or strains — as to found them 
at a deeper level. Finally, though, Geertz is more on the side of a strain 
theory of ideology. The concept of integration precisely has to do with the 
threat of the lack of identity, what is discussed by Erikson in psychological 
terms as crisis and confusion. What a group fears most is no longer being 
able to identify itself because of crises and confusions creating strain; the 
task is to cope with this strain. Once again the comparison with religion is 
relevant, because suffering and death play exactly the same role in personal 
life as crisis and confusion in the social sphere. The two analyses tend to 

I would add that another positive element about ideology as integration 
is that it supports the integration of a group not simply in space but in 
time. Ideology functions not only in the synchronic dimension but also in 
the diachronic dimension. In the latter case, the memory of the group's 
founding events is extremely significant; reenactment of the founding 
events is a fundamental ideological act. There is an element of a repetition 
of the origin. With this repetition begin all the ideological processes in the 
pathological sense, because a second celebration already has the character 
of reification. The celebration becomes a device for the system of power 
to preserve its power, so it is a defensive and protective act on the part of 
the rulers. Can we imagine, though, a community without the celebration 
of its own birth in more or less mythical terms? France celebrates the fall 
of the Bastille, and the United States celebrates the Fourth of July. In 
Moscow a whole political system is based on a tomb, Lenin's tomb, perhaps 
one of the only cases in history after the Egyptians where a tomb is the 
source of a political system. This permanent memory of the group's foun- 
ders and founding events, then, is an ideological structure that can function 
positively as an integrative structure. 



It may be that Geertz's point of view as an anthropologist is the decisive 
reason for his emphasis on integration and thus on strain theory. As an 
anthropologist, Geertz has a different perspective from someone like 
Habermas, who is a sociologist of modern industrial society. In the kind 
of societies with which Geertz deals — the main sources of his fieldwork 
are Indonesia and Morocco — the problematic is not that of industrial or 
postindustrial society but that of societies which are developing, in every 
sense of that word. For these societies the critique of ideology is premature; 
their focus is more the constitutive nature of ideology. When intellectuals 
or other dissidents in these societies use the tools of ideology-critique, 
whether in the sense of Habermas or, more typically, in the sense of 
Althusser, they>are usually sent to prison if not killed. Dissidents become 
marginal when they apply the critical tools of an advanced society to the 
birth of a new society. The methodological point, then, is to consider to 
what extent Geertz's viewpoint as an anthropologist commits him to an 
analysis which cannot be that of a Habermas. 

It may be too simple, though, to say that developing countries have only 
to deal with the constitutive character of ideology, because their arduous 
task is to find their own identity in a world already marked by the crisis of 
industrial societies. Not only have the advanced industrial societies accu- 
mulated and confiscated most of the means and the tools for development ; 
they have engendered a crisis of advanced society which is now a public 
and world phenomenon. Societies are entering into the process of indus- 
trialization at the same time as nations at the top of this development are 
raising questions about the process. Countries have to incorporate tech- 
nology at the same time that the critique and trial of technology has begun. 
For intellectuals in these countries, the task is an especially difficult one, 
because they live in two ages at the same time. They live at the beginning 
of the industrial period, let us say the eighteenth century, but they are also 
part of the twentieth century, because they are raised in a culture which 
has already entered into the crisis of the relation between its goals and the 
critique of technology. The concept of ideology has now become universal, 
therefore, because the crisis of the industrial societies is a universal crisis; 
it is part of the education of any intellectual at any place on the world. I 
remember traveling a number of years ago in Syria, Lebanon, and other 
parts of the Middle East, and in their libraries one finds the works of 
Simone de Beauvoir, Sartre, and so on. Everyone is now the contemporary 
of everyone else. People in developing countries are educated at the same 



time with the intellectual tools of their own culture and the tools of the 
crisis of the developed countries. 

If ideology is now a universal issue, the Marxist claim is that the concept 
of ideology came into being with the development of social classes. The 
argument is that ideology did not exist prior to the rise of class structures. 
Althusser goes so far as to say that before the bourgeoisie there was no 
ideology. There are creeds and beliefs, but only the class structure created 
the situation that an important part of the population did not share the 
values of the whole. As we have seen, the Marxist perspective emphasizes 
the distortive aspects of ideology rather than its integrative function. In 
response to this emphasis, I would claim that the primitive concept of 
ideology as integration cannot be used in political practice except for the 
purpose of preserving even in the situation of struggle the problematic of 
recognition. If I understand that the distorting function could not appear 
if there were not a symbolic structure of action, then at least I know that 
it is because an integrative process is under way that there may be some 
class conflicts. Class conflicts are therefore never exactly situations of total 
war. Realization of the integrative character of ideology helps to preserve 
the appropriate level of class struggle, which is not to destroy the adversary 
but to achieve recognition. To put it in Hegelian terms, the struggle is for 
recognition and not for power. The underlying integrative function of 
ideology prevents us from pushing the polemical element to its destructive 
point — the point of civil war. What prevents us from making a plea for 
civil war is that we have to preserve the life of our adversary; an element 
of belonging together persists. Even the class enemy is not a radical enemy. 
In some sense he or she is still a neighbor. The concept of ideology as 
integrative puts a limit on social war and prevents it from becoming a civil 
war. Some of the European communist parties — particularly in Italy and 
now in France and Spain — have formulated the idea that the problem is 
to develop a society better integrated than in the class structure. The point, 
then, is really to integrate and not to suppress or destroy one's enemy. 

The grounds for this transformation may already exist in class society. 
Even in class society integrative processes are at work: the sense of a 
common language, a common culture, and a common nation. People share 
at least the linguistic tools and all the communicative means that are linked 
to language, so we have to locate the role of language in a class structure. 
Resolution of this question was an important battle among Marxists earlier 
this century. At least for a time Stalin was on the correct side against those 



Marxists who said that even grammar has a class structure. Stalin argued 
instead that the language belongs to the nation as a whole. The status of 
the nation in Marxist theory is difficult to elaborate because it cuts across 
class lines. We may say that Geertz's concept of ideology is more appro- 
priate for an issue like this, since the status of the nation is not radically 
affected by the class structure. In attempting to define the nature of the 
nation, the question is as problematic as the definition of sex roles: it is 
difficult to say what is really fundamental and what is merely cultural. 
Only by changing traits or roles do we discover what cannot be changed. 
It is by questioning class affiliations that we may be able to identify what 
is constitutive of a community beyond or above its class structure. Many 
Marxists now say in fact that Marxism must be realized according to the 
different cultural situations in which it finds itself. These situations are 
then defined precisely by what Geertz calls an ideological system. We have 
to deal with the norms and the images that project a group's identity in the 
same way as some psychologists speak of the body image. There is a social 
group image, and this image of identity is particular to each group. 

We may take the ideology of the United States as an example. The first 
point about this ideology is that it cannot be defined in isolation from its 
relations with other countries and their own ideological patterns. The 
United States is hardly in the position of isolation that would shield it from 
confrontation with other national ideologies. As Lenin was quite conscious, 
the stage is now the world. We should note that this situation is of rather 
recent origin. Before the First World War, the inner conflicts of Europe 
ruled the world situation. Now that Europe has collapsed by its inner wars, 
though, the conflict is more global. The relation, for example, between the 
Third World and the industrial world is currently a fundamental battle. 
Thus, the ideology of the United States is defined in part by its external 

As for judging the internal determinants of this ideology, we have more 
difficulty responding if we no longer rely solely on the Marxist concept of 
class, where one group is the dominant class and sets forth the ruling 
ideas — the ideology — of the nation. Someone like Mannheim is both quite 
clever and quite cautious on this issue, because he always speaks of a social 
stratum. He leaves us the task of identifying which groups are at work in 
society and in what way. In fact, the task is precisely to consider all the 
various social groupings and not to preclude other determinants than the 
notion of class. Perhaps class is only one structure among many. Consider, 



for instance, the question of racial and ethnic minorities, a most prominent 
issue in this country. In what category do we put minorities? They are not 
a class nor a nation . We must be flexible with the concept of social stratum ; 
perhaps the connection between a stratum and an ideology or Utopia is 
what gives unity to both. It may be, as some argue, that the United States 
is shifting from a melting pot to a mosaic. This means that many groups 
and consequently many ideologies make up whatever is the whole. Ethnic 
consciousness is now a collective component of a broader national ideo- 
logical mixture. 

It is still true, though, that the United States does have a common 
ideology. As a foreigner, I am quite conscious of the unity of the ideology 
in this country, and I take the term "ideology" here in a neutral sense. 
Consider the question of unemployment. For me, this is a typical difference 
between Europe and the United States. In Europe, to be unemployed is 
an injustice; one has a right to work. Here unemployment is seen as an 
individual failure. It is not an accusation directed against the system but a 
personal problem. The unemployed must rely on welfare and food stamps, 
which makes them still more dependent on the system. The failure of being 
unemployed is accentuated by this dependence. Although the concept of 
free enterprise may be an object of criticism, it is finally taken for granted. 
Everyone is competing against everyone else. Even the way students work 
in this country — individual against individual — is quite different from 
Europe. This pervasive individualism has some healthy implications but 
also implies that while everything run by private enterprise is in good 
condition, public enterprises like the railroad suffer. There is no sense of 
the common property. The United States does have something like a 
collective ideology, then, though I know that those who live within it are 
more aware of its subideologies or subcultures. 

To conclude this last lecture on ideology, let me say that the concept of 
integration is a presupposition of the two other main concepts of ideology — 
legitimation and distortion — but actually functions ideologically by means 
of these two other factors. Further, the nexus between these three functions 
may be situated by relating the role of ideology to the larger role of the 
imagination in social life. My presupposition at this more general level, 
which I shall develop further in the lectures on Utopia, is that imagination 
works in two different ways. On the one hand, imagination may function 
to preserve an order. In this case the function of the imagination is to stage 
a process of identification that mirrors the order. Imagination has the 



appearance here of a picture. On the other hand, though, imagination mav 
have a disruptive function; it may work as a breakthrough. Its image in 
this case is productive, an imagining of something else, the elsewhere. In 
each of its three roles, ideology represents the first kind of imagination ; it 
has a* function of preservation, of conservation. Utopia, in contrast, rep- 
resents the second kind of imagination; it is always the glance from no- 
where. As Habermas has suggested, perhaps it is a dimension of the libido 
itself to project itself cms — outside, nowhere — in this movement of tran- 
scendence, whereas ideology is always on the brink of becoming patholog- 
ical because it has a conservative function in both the good and the bad 
senses of that word. Ideology preserves identity, but it also wants to 
conserve what jexists and is therefore already a resistance. Something be- 
comes ideological — in the more negative meaning of the term — when the 
integrative function becomes frozen, when it becomes rhetorical in the bad 
sense, when schematization and rationalization prevail. Ideology operates 
at the turning point between the integrative function and resistance. In the 
next lecture we turn to the concept of Utopia and start to determine how 
its functions compare. 

Part II 





We finally begin the lectures on Utopia. The lack of proportion between 
the number of lectures devoted to ideology and those devoted to Utopia 
reflects something of the situation in the secondary literature. There is an 
enormous literature on ideology — perhaps because of Marxism and post- 
Marxist thought — and much less on Utopia. I shall address myself first 
precisely to the question of the obstacles that make so difficult the recog- 
nition of Utopia both as an autonomous problem and as a concept related 
to ideology. 

This inquiry may best proceed by discussion of several points where a 
lack of parallelism between ideology and Utopia is evident. The first diffi- 
culty is that both phenomena differ in their appearance. We are tempted 
to acknowledge only Utopias as a written genre. Specific to the field of 
Utopia is the fact that it constitutes from the outset a literary genre. There 
are works which are called Utopias, the first being Thomas More's Utopia 
(1516), which coined the term. Nothing similar exists in ideology. No one 
has written a work called Ideology and said that he or she was explicitly 
writing an ideology. This creates a dissimilarity and lack of connection 
between ideology and Utopia. Utopia is a declared genre, not only declared 
but written, whereas ideology by definition is not declared. It is always the 
other who says that we are victims of our ideology. The ideology is therefore 
more naturally denied, while the Utopia is more easily claimed. The prob- 
lem is one of authorship. We may speak of the Utopias of Saint-Simon, 
Owen, and so on, but no proper names are linked to ideology. 

The second lack of parallelism appears in the attitudes with which we 
approach the two phenomena. We approach ideology by means of a cri- 
tique; out attempt is to unmask. As I tried to argue in the last lecture, 



perhaps it is only at the end of a very difficult and cumbersome process 
that we may approach ideology with a more friendly attitude, as we saw in 
Geertz. Only at this stage has ideology lost its sting as a process of justifi- 
cation. Our general attitude toward Utopia is rather different. In some 
cases Utopia does have a negative connotation, particularly when labeled 
by the representatives of ruling groups who feel threatened. For them the 
Utopia is something impossible and unrealizable, at least within their own 
order. Nevertheless, the Utopia in its literary form engenders a kind of 
complicity or connivance on the part of a well-disposed reader. The reader 
is inclined to assume the Utopia as a plausible hypothesis. It may be part 
of the literary strategy of Utopia to aim at persuading the reader by the 
rhetorical means^of fiction. A literary fiction is an imaginative variation 
whose premises the reader assumes for a while. In the Utopian work we are 
not faced with a polemical attitude that must be disarmed by the cleverness 
of the reader's redactional act. 

A third lack of parallelism and still greater obstacle both for comparison 
of ideology and Utopia and for discussion of Utopia as a specific genre is 
the fact that Utopias (in the plural) do not easily yield a central meaning 
for Utopia (in the singular). This result is a consequence of the Utopias' 
authorship : specific Utopias are written by specific authors. It was difficult 
enough to try to isolate a kernel of ideology as a unique problem; it is still 
more difficult to try to isolate a kernel of Utopia. We may approach ide- 
ologies according to their themes, but a content analysis of Utopias finally 
scatters completely; it dismantles the field to the point where it seems that 
we have before us dreams or social fictions that are unconnected. There 
are, of course, some limits to this dispersion. A certain permanence of 
concerns does obtain, a recurrence of themes about the family, property, 
consumption, social and political organization, institutionalized religion, 
and so on. I shall return to this point in the next lecture, where I discuss 
a Utopia — Saint-Simon's — that belongs to the tradition of socialist Utopias ; 
comparison of the persisting themes seen there may provide an opportunity 
for a new discussion with Marxism and a renovation of French Utopian 
socialism. If we look more generally at each Utopian theme, though, each 
one explodes in contradictory directions. Further, Utopias are scattered not 
only in terms of their projects and contents but in terms of their intentions. 
In Lewis Mumford's The Story of Utopias, he attempts to show that there 
are at least two families of Utopias which are very difficult to connect 
together, what he calls Utopias of escape and Utopias of reconstruction. 



Perhaps we need to find a link between the different Utopias in the structure 
of the imagination. For the purposes of a surface semantics, though, we 
are faced with a plurality of individual Utopias that are very difficult to 
gather under the Utopian name. 

This problem is also reflected in the method of approach. Ideology- 
critique is sociological, whereas Utopias are historical. The major Utopian 
literature is composed of histories of particular Utopias. There is, in fact, 
some kinship between the literary genre and the historical approach. In 
history we tell the story of the stories, a reduplication of the history. When 
we speak of the Utopias of Saint-Simon, Fourier, Owen, Wells, Huxley, 
and Skinner, we have a list of authors who tend to substitute historical 
monographs for sociology. The difficulty of subsuming this diversity under 
one concept is exemplified by one of the best books written on Utopia. 
Raymond Ruyer's L'Utopie et les Utopies. Ruyer divides his text into two 
parts, one part on "Utopia" and the other on "Utopias." He finds it 
problematic to overcome the structure of a series of monographs with a 
summary and general introduction to the genre as a whole. 

A fourth and even more formidable difficulty for our analysis is that in 
Marxist thought the distinction between Utopia and ideology tends to 
disappear. To reinstate this distinction is to counter if not Marxism in 
general then at least orthodox Marxism. In the final two lectures I shall 
address this question more directly by examining two alternatives to Marx- 
ist socialism, the Utopian socialisms of Saint-Simon and Fourier. On the 
basis of our previous study of Marx, we can understand why the distinction 
between ideology and Utopia tends to disappear in Marxism. As we have 
seen, Marxism has two differing criteria for ideology. First, it opposes 
ideology to praxis, and what is opposed to praxis is fancy or the imagination. 
This is the stance we saw in The German Ideology. At this stage both 
ideology and Utopia can be put within the same grouping of what is not 
real. The unreal covers both. We reach the same conclusion, though, if we 
follow the second Marxist criterion of ideology and oppose ideology to 
science. In this case, the unscientific covers both ideology and Utopia. This 
latter emphasis started with Engels, when he wrote "Socialism : Utopian 
and Scientific." Utopian socialism is considered to belong to the realm of 
ideologies. Marxism tends to reduce Utopias to a subclass of ideologies by 
applying to them the same analysis as for ideologies. Utopias are said 
to be the efflux of a certain social stratum. The explanation for both 
ideologies and Utopias is the same. The monotony of explanation reduces 



the specificity of the analysis. The same is true in Althusser, because for 
him all that is prescientific is ideological; the status of ideology as the 
imaginary can as well be applied to Utopia. Even the prophetic appears as 
a mere disguise of interest. Both ideology and Utopia are "echoes," 

The merit of Karl Mannheim, to whom we now return, is that he both 
connected ideology and Utopia and at the same time reserved their differ- 
ences. We shall begin our discussion of Mannheim where we left off, in 
the chapter of Ideology and Utopia on "The Utopian Mentality." I shall 
indicate my differences with Mannheim, but he provides us at the very 
least a good sociological tool for approaching the methodological difficulties 
I have summarised. 

Mannheim's study of Utopia is presented in three steps. In the previous 
lecture on Mannheim, I spoke only of the first, a criteriology of Utopia, 
and I shall repeat Mannheim's analysis of this stage briefly. The second 
step is a typology, and here Mannheim tries to apply a method fairly similar 
to Max Weber's on ideal types, though we shall see one important differ- 
ence. Third, Mannheim attempts to interpret the direction of the changes 
in Utopia, that is, its temporal dynamics. Thus, the three main contribu- 
tions of Mannheim to the problem of Utopia are first, an attempt to provide 
a concept, a working hypothesis covering the inquiry; second, an attempt 
to orient us within the variety of Utopias by overcoming this dispersion, 
this scattered multiplicity, with a typology; and third, an attempt to say 
something about the irreducible movement of this typology. Mannheim's 
main idea is that the process is leading to a decline of Utopias and therefore 
to the progressive disappearance of any noncongruence with reality. People 
are more adjusted to reality, and this adjustment kills Utopia. This situation 
is finally the major issue in Mannheim's text. 

On the first step of Mannheim's analysis, his criteriology, let me simply 
summarize the points made in our earlier lecture. For Mannheim, ideology 
and Utopia have both a common feature and a differential feature. The 
common feature is what he calls noncongruence, a kind of deviation or 
split. It is difficult to say what the noncongruence is a deviation from; we 
might say it is a deviation from the state of action and reality within which 
it occurs. The differential feature of ideology and Utopia is that Utopia is 
situationally transcendent while ideology is not. As I suggested earlier, 
criteria for determining who knows the "reality" of a situation and so can 
decide whether something is transcendent is yet another problem. The 



second aspect of Utopia's transcendent character is that a Utopia is funda- 
mentally realizable. This is significant, because it runs against a prejudice 
that a Utopia is merely a dream. On the contrary, says Mannheim, a Utopia 
shatters a given order; and it is only when it starts shattering order that it 
is a Utopia. A Utopia is then always in the process of being realized. 
Ideology, in contrast, does not have the problem of being realized, because 
it is the legitimation of what is. If there is noncongruence between ideology 
and reality, it is because reality changes whereas ideology has a certain 
inertia. The inertia of ideology creates the discrepancy. The differential 
criterion of ideology and Utopia is manifested in two ways, and these are 
corollaries of the common criterion of noncongruence. First, ideologies 
relate mainly to dominant groups; they comfort the collective ego of these 
dominant groups. Utopias, on the other hand, are more naturally supported 
by ascending groups and therefore more usually by the lower strata of the 
society. Second, ideologies are directed more toward the past and so are 
stricken by obsolescence, whereas Utopias have a futuristic element. 

The second step in Mannheim's analysis is a typology. Mannheim's 
typology is sociological, and what is interesting methodologically is the 
difference here between a sociological approach and a historical one. This 
is an important topic for a philosophy of the human sciences. It is precisely 
the historian who emphasizes the singularity of works. The basic trend in 
historical research is to address oneself not to generalization but to the 
uniqueness of events. The trend is less true now than when Mannheim's 
book was written, because there has been a shift in history toward sociology, 
but nevertheless, history is not absorbed into sociology to the extent that 
it preserves the notion of the event, a theme of great interest to my own 
reflections. This attention to the notion of the event explains why those 
who write a history of Utopias take as their model Thomas More's Utopia; 
his work exemplifies the affinity that exists between the historical method 
and the literary genre. The literary genre deposits individual works into 
the course of history. This implies that the historian cannot overcome 
descriptive concepts, and the latter, says Mannheim, obstruct systematic 

Such an historically "naive" concept [of historical uniqueness] would be, for ex- 
ample, that of "utopia" in so far as in its technical historical use it comprised 
structures which in the concrete are similar to the Utopia of Thomas More, or 
which in a somewhat broader historical sense refer to "ideal commonwealths." It 
is not our intention to deny the utility of such individually descriptive concepts as 

274 Mannheim 

long as the objective is the comprehension of the individual elements in history. 

In contrast, Mannheim's own effort is dedicated toward establishment 
of a sociology of Utopia. A sociology of Utopia, says Mannheim, follows 
three methodological rules. First, it must construct its concept, not in the 
sense of an individually descriptive concept but in the sense of a generali- 
zation, a working concept. An example would be "whether there are not 
ideas as yet unrealized in reality which transcend a given reality . . ." (201 ) . 
This is how Mannheim constructs the concept of Utopia. We are not passive 
in relation to experience but try to reconstruct it structurally. "Constructive 
abstraction is a prerequisite for empirical investigation ..." (202). If the 
first methodological rule is to construe an overarching concept, the second 
is to differentiate Utopias according to social strata. The problem is to 
connect each form of Utopia with a social stratum, and we shall see that 
this is not always easy to do. "[T]he key to the intelligibility of Utopias is 
the structural situation of that social stratum which at any given time 
espouses them" (208). A Utopia is the discourse of a group and not a kind 
of literary work floating in the air. This rule entails that the individuality 
of authors significantly disappears; while individuality is not completely 
canceled, it is greatly deemphasized. The third methodological rule is that 
a Utopia is not only a set of ideas but a mentality, a Geist, a configuration 
of factors which permeates the whole range of ideas and feelings. The 
Utopian element is infused into all sectors of life. It is not something that 
can be identified and expressed in propositional form but is rather, to use 
the language of Geertz, an overarching symbolic system. Mannheim speaks 
here of the "dominant wish" (209), something which can be retained as a 
methodological concept if we understand by it an organizing principle that 
is more felt than thought. The Utopian mentality gives "an immediately 
preceptible picture" to experience, or at least "a directly intelligible set of 
meanings" (209). This concept will be most significant when we consider 
what Mannheim calls the death of Utopia; the death of Utopia may also be 
the death of a global picture of reality, and this leaves viable nothing but 
a piecemeal approach to events and situations. 

These three methodological criteria — Utopia as a construed concept, a 
correlation with a corresponding social stratum, and a dominant wish — 
are not that far from the ideal types of Max Weber. The typology differs 
from Weber's in one fundamental respect, however, and that will be de- 
cisive for the following part of Mannheim's analysis. Mannheim considers 


2 75 

the antagonism between Utopias to be fundamental. We have already said 
this of ideology, that ideology perhaps does not exist as long as a common 
culture is not broken. There must be the notion of an antinomy, of an 
antagonism. This antagonism is easier to acknowledge in the case of Utopias 
because for Mannheim each Utopia is defined by the nature of its antago- 
nism to the others. It is not by chance that the section of Mannheim to 
which we now move speaks of changes in the configuration of the Utopian 
mentality. There is a configuration of the Utopian mentality because it is 
the system of Utopia as a whole that makes sense of the opposition between 
one specific Utopia and another. Utopias have come "into existence and 
maintained themselves as mutually antagonistic counter-utopias" (208). 
Mannheim opens room here for the concept of counterutopias; some Uto- 
pias may be typically anti-utopian only because there is an element of 
counterutopia in each Utopia. The notion of the counterutopia allows 
Mannheim to list conservatism as a Utopia, which ordinarily is rather 
questionable. According to his own three criteria, though, as long as we 
have present in conservatism a form which structures life, appears rion- 
congruent, and includes a dominant wish, then it is a Utopia. Even if 
conservatism is a project for the future to restore the past, it is still a Utopia 
because it counters another Utopia. It is essential that one Utopia orients 
itself to another. "[T]he sociologist can really understand these Utopias 
only as parts of a constantly shifting total constellation" (208) . 

This emphasis on the configuration of Utopia prepares the transition 
from what I termed Mannheim's typology to a dynamics. This difference 
is already present in the title of the section to which we turn: "Changes in 
the Configuration of the Utopian Mentality . . ." (211 ; emphasis added). 
The global shift of the system, the general evolutionary trend of the whole 
constellation, is the object of this section. We shall bracket for the moment, 
though, the problem of the general trend which displaces the whole con- 
figuration to see first in a more static way how the configuration of Utopia 
is built. The temporal order cannot be discarded, but we shall bracket the 
direction of this change. Because the section is a long one, I shall retain 
one point of view to give us a leading thread throughout : the way in which 
each Utopia deals with the sense of time. The recurrent argument in 
Mannheim's analysis is that each Utopia has a particular sense of historical 
time: "Just because of this central significance of the historical time-sense, 
we will emphasize particularly the connections which exist between each 
Utopia and the corresponding historical time-perspective" (210). 



The first Utopia that Mannheim names is not Thomas More's. Instead, 
Mannheim starts with Thomas Miinzer, the Anabaptist (211-19). (It is 
interesting to see Mannheim's conjunction here with Ernst Bloch, who 
wrote eight years before Mannheim on Thomas Miinzer als Theologe der 
Revolution [1921].) Why does Mannheim choose Miinzer and not Thomas 
More? First, because Munzer's Anabaptism represents both the largest gap 
between idea and reality — the most stark example of the criterion of non- 
congruence — and at the same time the prototypical case where the Utopian 
dream is in the process of being fulfilled. For Mannheim the criterion of 
Utopia is not satisfied by the fact that something starts to shatter the existing 
order. Munzer's movement is chiliastic; it has the idea of a millennial 
kingdom coming^from heaven. The transcendent element manifests itself 
in the descent of heaven to earth. Chiliasm assumes a transcendent point 
of departure for a social revolution based on religious motives. The descent 
of the transcendent overcomes the distance between the Utopian idea and 
reality. We may note that the chiliastic Utopia is a limit to Marx's claim 
that religion is by necessity only on the side of ideology. This fundamental 
exception to Marx's claim perhaps provides the model for all Utopias, since 
all Utopias will represent a reduction of the initial gap between idea and 

The second reason for Mannheim's choice of the chiliastic Utopia is that 
it conjoins the ideal with the demands of an oppressed stratum. It is the 
conjunction between the preacher and the revolt of the peasants that is 
decisive here. "Longings which up to that time had been either unattached 
to a specific goal or concentrated upon other-worldly objectives suddenly 
took on a mundane complexion. They were now felt to be realizable — here 
and now — and infused social conduct with a singular zeal" (212). Notice 
again the criterion of realizability. For Mannheim this movement repre- 
sented the first break in a fatalistic acceptance of power as it is. This is the 
reason why Mannheim does not consider Plato's Laws or even less the 
Republic as Utopian. Can we even speak of a Utopia before the Renaissance, 
or does the Utopia depend precisely on this unique conjunction between a 
transcendent ideal and the rebellion of an oppressed class? For Mannheim 
this is the birth of at least the modern Utopia. And that excludes Thomas 
More as a first stage. What confirms the choice of this point of departure 
is its continual influence, and this includes its persisting threat to the other 
Utopia forms. The chiliastic Utopia arouses counterutopias, which are more 
or less directed against the threat of the resurgence of this fundamental 



Utopia. Conservative, liberal, and even socialist revolutionary Utopias all 
find the anarchism of the chiliastic Utopia a common enemy. For Mannheim 
there is a line that can be drawn from Miinzer to Bakunin where the same 
energies are launched by this shortcut between an ideal and an earthly 
demand coming from below. Mannheim insists precisely that the dynamics 
of this Utopia are "ecstatic-orgiastic energies" (213). We may question 
whether the term is well-chosen, but Mannheim means by it an emotional 
impulse yielded by the conjunction of ideal and demand that is in opposition 
to all the ideals of culture of classical Eruope, the latter culminating in the 
German concept of Bildung — culture, education — and typifying the liberal 
model of Utopia. In the chiliastic Utopia there is a certain antiliberal energy, 
since it is not ideas that lead history but the energies liberated by the 
breaching of the millennium. 

As for our touchstone, a Utopia's sense of time, what is specific to the 
sense of time in this Utopia and perhaps all Utopias that proceed from it is 
the sudden shortcut between the absolute and the immediate here and 
now. There is no delay, no postponement between the immediate and the 
absolute. "For the real Chiliast, the present becomes the breach through 
which what was previously inward bursts out suddenly, takes hold of the 
outer world and transforms it" (215). The sense is that the kingdom of 
God is now. There is one time, and that is the present. The chiliastic 
experience is the opposite of the mystic's departure from space and time. 
Chiliasm avows the instaneity of the promise against the slow preparation 
that a didactic concept of culture develops or the sense of opportunity 
linked to real conditions advanced by Marxist thought. For Mannheim, 
the disregard for preparation and opportunity is characteristic of the chil- 
iastic Utopia. 

The second form that Mannheim considers is the liberal-humanitarian 
Utopia (219-29). It is based mainly on a trust in the power of thought as 
an educative, informative process. The Utopia is in conflict with an existing 
order, but in the name of an idea. It is not Platonism, though, because 
Platonism remains a model and not a potentiality for change. In a sense 
we may say that the university proceeds from this Utopia, because the 
notion is that we may change reality by better knowledge, by higher 
education, and so on. This form is Utopian to the extent that it denies, and 
sometimes very naively, the real sources of power in property, money, 
violence, and all kinds of nonintellectual forces. It overemphasizes the 
power of intelligence to form and to shape. In this regard it is antichiliastic, 



because it does not speak of energies but of ideas. For Mannheim the liberal 
Utopia culminates in German idealism, which reflects this philosophy of 
education, of Bildung. This Utopia is typified by the permanent fight in 
Europe from the beginning of the Renaissance through at least the French 
Revolution between an intellectualistic world view and a theocratic or 
clerical world view. The first group is represented by the bourgeoisie — 
the most "enlightened" — who fought against the theocracies and the mon- 
archies and, particularly after the French Revolution, against the return 
of monarchies to theocratic legitimation. The main notion of this Utopia is 
the idea of humanity as a formative ideal, despite the lack of this notion's 
concreteness. This Utopia was present in both the French and German 
Enlightenment (the French Enlightenment was more political and imme- 
diate, the German more a theory of culture) , and perhaps something similar 
was at work in the secularization of pietism in England. 

As for the sense of time in the liberal Utopia, the notion is that history 
is like individual life with childhood and maturity but without old age and 
death. The idea is that there is a growth toward maturity. To become 
mature is the main concept. There is a sense of unilinear progress, and 
this philosophy of progress is directed exactly against the time sense of the 
chiliastic Utopia. Change does not occur at any moment but as the culmi- 
nation of historical evolution. Instead of a focus on the outburst of the 
kairos, the emphasis is on growth and becoming. This myth of human 
education is always anti-anarchist. The symbols and metaphors that belong 
to this Utopia center around the notion of light: an enlightenment, a theme 
also common in some sense to the Reformation and the Renaissance. The 
idea is, post tenebras lux, after darkness, light; in the end, light wins. 

The third Utopia Mannheim discusses is conservatism (229-39). At first 
sight it seems quite strange to call this Utopian. Conservatism is more a 
counterutopia, but as a counterutopia that is compelled to legitimate itself 
under the attack of the others, it then becomes a Utopia of a certain kind. 
Conservatism discovers its "idea" after the fact; it is like Hegel's owl of 
Minerva that takes to flight only at the end of the day. As a Utopia, 
conservatism develops some fundamental symbols like that of the Volks- 
geist, the spirit of a people. Its imagery is morphological. The people of a 
community, folk, nation, or state are like an organism, parts making up a 
whole. Growth cannot be hastened; people must be patient; things take 
time to change. There is a sense of historical determinateness like the 
growth of a plant, and this is opposed to ideas, which simply float. Evident 



is an anti-abstract turn of mind. As for the time sense of conservatism, 
priority is given to the past, not the past as abolished but one that nourishes 
the present by giving it roots. There is a notion of tradition, an assertion 
that something is transmitted and still living and that the present without 
this subterranean efflux of the past would be empty. Against the kairos of 
the first Utopia and the progress of the second, a sense of duration is 

Mannheim's fourth form is the socialist-communist Utopia (239-47). 
Here too we may have many reservations about Mannheim's categorization . 
Most particularly, how can we name the socialist-communist movement 
Utopian when it claims precisely to be anti-utopian? Mannheim has two 
responses. This movement is Utopian first because of its relation to the 
three other Utopias, a relation that is not only competitive but synthetic. 
Mannheim claims that this fourth mode is "based upon an inner synthesis 
of the various forms of Utopia which have arisen hitherto . . ." (240). It 
preserves from the chiliastic Utopia the sense of a break in history, this leap 
from the era of necessity to the era of freedom. It also preserves the best 
of the tradition of progress, that there are temporal preparations, historical 
stages. The transition, for example, from ownership based on land to that 
based on capital constitutes a rational development which makes possible 
at a certain time a break in the main social structure. Even the conservative 
Utopia provides an element : the sense of necessity, the sense that we cannot 
do anything at any time, the deterministic element that is so strangely 
linked with the notion of a leap. (In his dialectic of nature, Engels tried to 
connect the different models of the break, progress, and necessity by 
arguing that quantitative changes produce at a certain point a qualitative 
leap.) After the revolution, the conservative trend plays another important 
role in the socialist Utopia to the extent that the Party tries to preserve all 
its gains. When the Party is in power, it uses all the strategies of a con- 
servative Utopia. A yet more fundamental relation of the socialist-com- 
munist Utopia to the other Utopias is that it attempts to reduce them all to 
ideologies (241). Althusser's notion of an epistemological break can there- 
fore be applied to the relation between this Utopia and the other three. 

The intertwining of the three previous Utopias with this fourth mode is 
especially recognizable in the socialist-communist Utopia's sense of time. 
Mannheim thinks that the decisive contribution of this Utopia is the way it 
articulates the relation between the near and the remote. Achievement of 
communism is the remote; it will be the end of class struggle, the end of 

2 8o 


oppression, and so on. The near implies the steps taken to achieve this 
goal, steps that must be very rational. Socialism must occur first, for 
example, before the stage is ready for communism. Mannheim calls this 
the socialist-communist Utopia's strategic appreciation of time. "Time is 
experienced here as a series of strategical points" (244). Those who have 
worked with communists know this well, their patience to say this is not 
the right time, a capacity to endure the present and preserve their ideal for 
the right moment. In a most interesting line, Mannheim says of this Utopia : 
"only through the union of a sense of determinateness and a living vision 
of the future was it possible to create an historical time-sense of more than 
one dimension" (245). The future is prepared in the present, but at the 
same time there-^vill be more in the future than in the present.. "The 
socialist 'idea,' in its interaction with 'actual' events, operates not as a 
purely formal and transcendent principle which regulates the event from 
the outside, but rather as a 'tendency' within the matrix of this reality 
which continuously corrects itself with reference to this context" (246). 
This Utopia refines the idea of progress by introducing the notion of crisis, 
which was more or less absent from the liberal Utopia except in the case of 
Condorcet (223). In the socialist-communist Utopia, "Historical experience 
becomes ... a truly strategic plan" (247). 

The main problem Mannheim has now prepared is the direction of 
change of the Utopian configuration. The four forms of Utopia are not 
merely antagonistic, for their constellation is oriented: the nature of their 
antagonism affects the general trend of the changes. The forms constitute 
a temporal sequence. (We could make an interesting comparison on this 
point with the types of legitimacy claims in Max Weber and the general 
trend from the charismatic to the traditional and then to the rational- 
bureaucratic.) Mannheim's basic idea here is that the history of Utopia 
constitutes a gradual "approximation to real life" and therefore to the decay 
of Utopia. I must say that I have grave doubts about this, and Mannheim 
will qualify this statement, as we shall see. Nevertheless, he writes at the 
beginning of the section on "Utopia in the Contemporary Situation": "The 
historical process itself shows us a gradual descent and a closer approxi- 
mation to real life of a Utopia that at one time completely transcended 
history" (248) . It is as if the Utopian distance is being progressively reduced . 
After this supposedly descriptive characterization, Mannheim moves, ex- 
actly as he did with ideology, from a nonevaluative to an evaluative position 
about the merits of this change. It is difficult to avoid deciding whether 



the trend in Utopia is a good or bad one. Because Mannheim has defined 
ideology and Utopia as what is noncongruous to reality, his conclusion may 
be preordained. He must take the elimination of noncongruence as a 
positive gain. The idea is that this "approximation to real life" is wholesome 
since it expresses an attempt to cope more closely with social reality; it is 
a progressive "mastery of the concrete conditions of existence" (248). 

The general subsidence of Utopian intensity occurs in still another important 
direction, namely that each Utopia, as it is formed at a later stage of development, 
manifests a closer approximation to the historical-social process. In this sense, the 
liberal, the socialist, and the conservative ideas are merely different stages, and 
indeed counter-forms in the process which moves continually farther away from 
Chiliasm and approximates more closely to the events transpiring in this world. 

Modern history is a movement taking increasing distance from Chiliasm. 
I never know what Mannheim means finally by the "events transpiring in 
this world, " though, because who knows these events other than the Utopia? 
This is a stumbling block in our reading. 

However wholesome the attempt to cope more closely with social reality, 
this process in another sense quite disquieting. Mannheim thinks that 
radical anarchism has disappeared from the political scene. (I doubt that 
we could say that today; Mannheim obviously wrote before 1968.) He sees 
very clearly the conservative trend of socialism, the bureaucratization of 
liberal Utopia, the growing tolerance and skepticism, and above all, the 
reduction of all Utopias to ideologies; the last, we remember, was his own 
argument in the earlier chapter on ideology. Now everyone knows that he 
or she is caught in an ideology. Marxism has reduced all Utopias to ideology, 
but Mannheim points out that Marxism itself undergoes the same erosion. 

Near the end of the chapter on Utopia, Mannheim suddenly is afraid of 
what he has discovered. There is a visceral protest, a cry. It is not by 
accident that Mannheim quotes the words of a poet, Gottfried Keller: 
" 'The ultimate triumph of freedom will be barren' " (250). Mannheim 
suggests the symptoms of this barrenness: the general disintegration of 
world views, the reduction of philosophy to sociology. Philosophy is less 
and less the matrix of global perspectives, and sociology itself, without a 
philosophical perspective to ground it, is reduced to endless piecemeal 
inquiry. "At this mature and advanced stage of development, the total 
perspective tends to disappear in proportion to the disappearance of the 



Utopia. Only the extreme left and right groups in modem life believe that 
there is a unity in the developmental process" (252). 

The sense of historical time is deeply affected by this decay of Utopia. 
"Whenever the Utopia disappears, history ceases to be a process leading to 
an ultimate end" (253). Mannheim believes that the category of totality 
has been effaced, and he thinks that this is the main character of our epoch. 
We might compare this perspective, though, with other contemporary 
approaches. On the present theological scene, for example, an emphasis 
on the theology of the word is now being followed by an attempt to reenact 
theologies of history. Theologies of history are surely an attempt to react 
against the disintegration of perspectives and to maintain that once more 
the task is to speajt of history in terms of totality. This is another argument 
for rereading Lukacs. Lukacs is the kind of Marxist who had this sense of 
totality, as did Sartre in his Critique of Dialectical Reason, where he 
borrowed the concept of totality from Lukacs. For Lukacs in History and 
Class Consciousness, totality means not so much the necessity of determin- 
ism as the capacity to put all conflicts within a picture of the whole. It is 
this sense of general orientation that disappears in Mannheim, and disap- 
pearing with it is the notion of a goal. Mannheim thinks that the result of 
this effacement is the reduction of all events, all human actions, to functions 
of human drives. He credits Pareto and Freud with this notion (255), 
though I would not say that Freud is responsible, because his concept of 
the drive is always related to the superego, to cultural life. In any case, 
Mannheim sees the victory of a certain matter-of-factness (Sachlichkeit) . 
It is the empty victory of congruence: people are adapted, and because 
they are adapted they have no illusions; but with the loss of illusions people 
also lose any sense of direction. Mannheim sees all the diseases of modern 
sociology here. There is no longer the impulse to draw general pictures. 

Is this view of a world without Utopias true, though? Are we not wit- 
nessing a renewal of Utopias because of the failure of matter-of-factness? 
Acknowledgement that science and technology may themselves be ideolog- 
ical reopens the door to Utopia. Mannheim anticipates this response at least 
to some degree. He makes two qualifications to the apparent lack of tension 
in the world of his day. On the one hand he says that there are still strata 
"whose aspirations are not yet fulfilled" (257). Of course! Today the 
problems of the Third World would completely shatter this image. Nothing 
is less true than Mannheim's claim that we are "in a world which is no 
longer in the making" (257). It is also very strange that someone could 



write that in 1929, so few years before the triumph of Hitler. There is 
something frightening in this blindness to events. Perhaps it is the triumph 
of the liberal Utopia that inspired his sociology, if we may say that there is 
a Utopia behind this science. The idea that Bildung was culminating was 
soon cruelly denied. The second qualification Mannheim makes to his 
thesis is that he sees another group which is unsatisfied, and that is the 
intellectuals. Mannheim here anticipates Marcuse and others in the Frank- 
furt School. "[S]ince the intellectuals by no means find themselves in 
accord with the existing situation and so completely congruent with it that 
it no longer presents a problem to them, they aim also to reach out beyond 
that tensionless situation" (259). 

I would like to conclude our discussion of Mannheim by quoting a very 
strong statement. In the last paragraph of the Utopia chapter, Mannheim 
identifies where the parallelism between ideology and Utopia ends: 

[T]he complete elimination of reality-transcending elements from our world would 
lead us to a "matter-of-factness" [Sachlichkeit] which ultimately would mean the 
decay of the human will. Herein lies the most essential difference between these 
two types of reality-transcendence: whereas the decline of ideology represents a 
crisis only for certain strata, and the objectivity which comes from the unmasking 
of ideologies always takes the form of self-clarification for society as a whole, the 
complete disappearance of the Utopian element from human thought and action 
would mean that human nature and human development would take on a totally 
new character. (262) 

If we call ideology false consciousness of our real situation, we can imagine 
a society without ideology. We cannot imagine, however, a society without 
Utopia, because this would be a society without goals. Our distance from 
our goals is different from the ideological distortion of the image of who 
we are. "[W]ith the relinquishment of Utopias, man would lose his will to 
shape history and therewith his ability to understand it" (263). 

As I have briefly started to suggest, Mannheim may be criticized at 
several points. We can put in question his method, his choice of sociology 
versus history, and the construction of his typology of Utopia, its affiliation 
with and listing of this and that particular Utopia. Is Mannheim's typology 
too schematic? Is his list complete? Why four Utopias and not seven or 
ten? What is the principle for construing his typology? The dynamics of 
Mannheim's typology seems to be linked with the Utopia of progress. There 
is also an apparent tie to Hegel, because Mannheim's conservative type 
comes after the liberal, exactly as in Hegel. After the Enlightenment comes 



the beautiful soul and the regret for the past. Mannheim seems to share 
the Romantic idealization of the past, which was so strong in Germany. 
Although Romanticism in France was more lyrical, in Germany it was 
more political, in the sense of the restoration of the blood and the earth. 
Nazism surely had some roots in this tradition of the people as a body. 

I was particularly surprised that Mannheim's typology allows no room 
for socialist Utopias. Mannheim does consider as a Utopia the form of 
socialism framed by Marxism, but this form is Utopian only in terms of the 
traits it borrows from the other Utopias. In its constitution I would say 
that Marxist socialism is not Utopian, except in its development in the 
young Marx, where it is the Utopia of the whole person, the integrity of 
the whole person. <t)nce again, this is the category of totality promoted by 
Lukacs. By turning in the final two lectures precisely to true examples of 
socialist Utopias, we may find that alternatives exist to the conclusions 
drawn by Mannheim. We shall see that it may be possible to resolve the 
tension with which his chapter on Utopia ends. Mannheim's final plea for 
Utopia may be coherent, but we shall have to establish it on new grounds. 
Mannheim's text is finally more cryptic than it seems at first glance, but 
reappropriation of the notion of Utopia may unravel some of the problems 
his text brings to light. 


Saint- Simon 

In the remaining two lectures I shall discuss two examples of nineteenth- 
century Utopian socialism. I have selected these examples for three reasons. 
First, I want to test Mannheim's typology of Utopia. I am not sure that it 
is correct in its basic definition of Utopia as noncongruence. Because Utopian 
communities may attempt to and do actually exist, Utopia is perhaps better 
denned by its claim to shatter the existing order than by noncongruence. 
Mannheim's typology is also incomplete, because he in fact neglects the 
role played by non-Marxist socialist Utopias. The second reason I have 
chosen to discuss the ut6pian socialists is that I want to pursue Mannheim's 
investigation of the relation between individual Utopias and the general 
Utopian mentality. Mannheim claims that he can reduce the individual 
element, which is the object of history, to social structure. My question is 
to what extent does this reduction work? Third, I want to inquire whether 
the Marxist characterization of Utopia adequately represents specific Uto- 
pias. Engels coined the concept of Utopian socialism, and I shall focus on 
his delineation of this Utopian type and contrast it to the two specific 
examples of Utopian socialism that we shall discuss. In Engels' analysis we 
see that Utopias are not always acknowledged as Utopian by their proponents 
but may instead be labeled as such by their adversaries. Mannheim said 
something on this point when he noted that rising groups promote Utopias 
while ruling groups defend ideologies. As we shall discover, it may be quite 
difficult to identify the rising group behind certain Utopias. This too is a 
good test for my theory of Utopia. 

I shall start from Engels' ascription of Utopia to this group of nineteenth- 
century socialists in order to take his characterization as a leading thread 
and to see how well it works. The expression "utopian socialism" was used 



by Engels in a brochure published in 1880 under the title, "Socialism: 
Utopian and Scientific." The English translation to which we shall refer 
appears in Marx and Engels: Basic Writings on Politics and Philosophy, 
edited by Lewis S. Feuer. Engels' essay is not an independent piece but a 
three-chapter excerpt from Engels' large work Anti-Diihring. Engels saw 
quite correctly that these socialist Utopias were offshoots of the French 
Enlightenment. An initial question for us, therefore, is how did the En- 
lightenment produce Utopias? The rise of Utopias from the Enlightenment 
accords well with Mannheim's typology, because the second type of Utopia, 
we recall, was the rationalist Utopia. In the Enlightenment reason alone is 
the bearer of radical protest against political and ecclesiastical domination. 
Reason becomes Utopian when this protest against the ruling power has no 
historical issue. This in fact was the historical situation, because most of 
these Utopias appeared after the failure of the French Revolution, that is, 
when it became a bourgeois revolution and no longer a popular revolution. 

In the development of Utopian socialism, individual genius replaces 
rising groups. This substitution of genius for class is what interested 
Engels; he, of course, speaks against the Utopian socialists but not with the 
brutality and bitterness he reserved for bourgeois thought. Engels assumes 
that reason is merely, in a very simplistic way, the idealization of the 
interests of the bourgeoisie (69). For Marxist thought very early on, then, 
there was a shortcut between reason and interests. Engels believes that 
reason is the idealized form of the bourgeoisie's domination. In this process 
of idealization, however, there is not only the development of an ideology — 
that is, justification of the position of the dominant class — but also a by- 
product, the Utopia. Individual geniuses then have the ability to do some- 
thing other than merely represent the ruling interest. 

For Engels the Utopian illusion is the expectation that truth will be 
recognized simply because it is the truth, independent of all combinations 
of power and historical forces (71). We recognize here what Mannheim 
said about the chiliastic Utopias, their indifference to circumstances. The 
sense is that it is always a good time to. undertake a revolution. There are 
no necessary historical preparations and no conditions for success. This 
indifference to historical circumstances is a counterpart of the outburst of 
genius (71), which finds little support for its positions in the present 
historical forces. Engels suggests that at the time of the Utopian socialists, 
the lack of maturity of capitalistic production and the class situation was 
met by a lack of maturity in theory (70). Theory was not mature because 



the classes that could support a revolutionary program were not yet mature. 
This theoretical immaturity was exemplified in the Utopian belief that 
society could change on the basis of reason alone. Marxists have always 
said that capitalism must reach a certain level in order for a revolutionary 
situation to develop; promotion of Utopia corresponds to the stage of 
immaturity. Yet even in being described negatively as a lack of maturity, 
the Utopia is recognized as something specific that cannot be merely dis- 
carded and denied as ideological. Even Engels' rationalistic Marxism had 
to deal with a specific mode of thought that could not be called ideology. 
Engels does not say precisely that these alternative socialist models are 
Utopias but rather that they are "foredoomed as Utopian" (74). Engels uses 
this phrase because he has in mind a certain model of Utopia — the Utopias 
of the Renaissance: Mores Utopia, Campanella's The City of the Sun, and 
so on. The model is a literary one; it is a regressive model, because it is a 
fantasy and a fantasy of the past. This thought which claimed to be an 
advance was in fact a return backwards to some great literary social fantasies 
(74) . Elsewhere, Engels calls at least one form of this Utopian thought social 
poetry. 1 Engels' characterization was intended to be negative, but we may 
regard it, on the contrary, as a good description of Utopian thought as a 
whole, because there may indeed be a place in our lives for social poetry. 2 
In fact, my question at the end of this lecture will be whether we are not 
ready now to read these Utopias in a more favorable way, because we know 
what Marx and Engels have produced historically at least in terms of state 
socialism. After this failure, it may again be time for Utopia. 

Engels gives three examples of Utopian socialists — Saint-Simon, Four- 
ier, and Owen — and we shall discuss the first two. Saint-Simon will be our 
topic in the present lecture and Fourier in the next. It is interesting to note 
that these two thinkers wrote between 1801 and 1836, that is, during a 
period of restoration. Utopias appear during a time of restoration, and this 
perhaps makes sense for our time too. Saint-Simon was prudently revo- 
lutionary during the French Revolution, though as we shall see, he hated 
violence. This negative attitude toward violence is also a part of the Utopian 
mentality; the effort is to convince others, because imagination and not 
violence must make the break with the past. Saint-Simon and Fourier 
represent the two poles of the socialist Utopia; Saint-Simon is the radically 
rationalist while Fourier is a romanticist. Discussion of the two is a good 
approach to the inner dialectic of Utopia, its rational and emotional sides. 

In my analysis of these two figures, I follow mainly the French sociologist 



of Utopias, Henri Desroche, and his book Les Dieux Reves (Dreamt Gods) . 
The title itself is interesting for our purposes, because it is about the 
imagination. Imagination has the function of a social dream. Desroche 
argues that Saint-Simon's thought developed in three stages. Saint-Simon's 
rationalistic Utopia started by being close to the Enlightenment but changed 
over time into one attempting to reenact the chiliastic dream of a new 
religion. It is a striking trait of Utopias that they often begin with a radical 
anticlerical and even antireligious stand and end up by claiming to recreate 
religion. We shall leave for later discussion to what extent this change may 
be a criterion of Utopia. 

Saint-Simon's first Utopian project is expressed in his work The Letters 
of an Inhabitant ef Geneva to His Contemporaries, written in 1803. This 
work represents a purely rationalist orientation. Its form is that of a reve- 
lation, but its content shows that it is a project of social science. The 
prophetic form is typical of Utopias, as is the use of the future tense to 
indicate what will occur. This Utopia shifts power to intellectuals and 
scientists. The kernel of the Utopia is the power of knowledge. This focus 
confirms a hypothesis I presented in the introductory lecture, that all kinds 
of Utopian projects want to replace the state as a political power by an 
administration that would have no charismatic aura and and whose only 
role would be to recruit and support financially a high council of learned 
persons, a lay priesthood. Saint-Simon speaks in this regard of a govern- 
ment under the shadow of Newton. Saint-Simon confirms my hypothesis 
that both ideologies and Utopias deal with power; ideology is always an 
attempt to legitimate power, while Utopia is always an attempt to replace 
power by something else. At the same time, this transfer of power in Utopia 
is merely asserted; no practical means for implementation of the dream is 
set forth. Saint-Simon says always that the learned people, the scientists, 
will do such and such. The future represents the picture of the dream, but 
not the program for its attainment. As we shall see, Saint-Simon's last form 
of Utopia attempts to fill this gap between the dream and the present state 
of things. 

Nell Eurich points out in her book Science in Utopia: A Mighty Design 
that the idea of replacing political power by the power of scientists has a 
long lineage. The background for this kind of Utopia comes principally 
from Francis Bacon and his New Atlantis. (Condorcet, the French Ency- 
clopedist, was the intermediary link for the French Utopian socialists.) 
Bacon's Utopia was essentially a conjunction between the resources of an 



enlightened nation and the power of scientists, a coalition between an 
enlightened nation and individual genius. The idea was to replace a political 
democracy by a scientific democracy ; the charismatic element would belong 
to the scientists and the state would be the bureaucracy supporting this 
body of scientists. 

The scientists do not have power for their own sake, however; this is 
the important point. They have power for the sake of liberating creativity 
by a kind of chain reaction. This emphasis, which persists from Bacon to 
Saint-Simon, corroborates the claim of Mannheim's which at first sight 
seemed paradoxical, that a Utopia is not only a dream but a dream that 
wants to be realized. It directs itself toward reality; it shatters reality. The 
Utopia's intention is surely to change things, and therefore we cannot say 
with Marx's eleventh thesis on Feuerbach that it is a way only of inter- 
preting the world and not changing it. On the contrary, the thrust of Utopia 
is to change reality. The claim of the rationalist Utopia is that what I have 
called the "chain reaction" of change — the expression is taken from Des- 
roche (37) — starts from knowledge. Further, this Utopia is anti-elitist, in 
spite of the fact that we give power to those who know. The scientists do 
not exercise power for the sake of their own comfort. 

The great difference between Bacon and Saint-Simon is that while Bacon 
stressed the physical sciences — a mastery of the earth by good knowledge 
and therefore a kind of industrialist ideology proceeding from the natural 
sciences — Saint-Simon emphasized the social sciences. The reason Saint- 
Simon was able to transfer the concept of science from the natural to the 
social sciences is that he maintained that the Newtonian law of universal 
gravitation was the single principle governing all phenomena, both physical 
and moral. For nature to have order, all sciences had to have the same 
underlying principle. 

In this first stage, where science is the basis for the Utopia, we can verify 
an idea presented by Mumford that finally there are two kinds of Utopias: 
those which are escapes and those which are programs and want to be 
realized. Speaking of the latter, Eurich shows how these Utopias may 
generate counterutopias — Orwell's igS^, Huxley's Brave New World. The 
counterutopias proceed from a reversal of the Baconian Utopia. If we take 
the Baconian Utopia far enough, it leads to an absurd world. The Utopia 
becomes self-defeating. 

It is precisely to prevent the scientific Utopia from becoming self-de- 
feating that Saint-Simon takes a second step. He promotes an alliance 



between scientists and the industrious. A practical basis for the Utopia can 
be provided by les industriels, the industrious. We may note that Saint- 
Simon develops this argument at the beginning of industrialization in 
France, which was lagging in comparison to Great Britain, where indus- 
trialization had begun at least fifty years earlier. For a comparison with 
Marxism, it is also important to observe that Saint-Simon writes thirty 
years before the Manuscripts of 1844 and in quite a different situation. In 
the Germany of Marx's time there was no political economy and indeed no 
politics. For his part, Saint-Simon does not take the concept of industry 
(or, in the more usual terminology today, the concept of work) as a class 
concept that opposes the bourgeoisie and the working class, but on the 
contrary as a concfept that encompasses all forms of work and opposes itself 
only to idleness. The main opposition in Saint-Simon is between industry 
and idleness. Idle people — priests, nobles — are contrasted to industrious 
people. Saint-Simon does not have the concept of work that Marx opposes 
to capital. Engels says that it is because the class struggle is not mature 
that the distinction between work and capital has not been produced (73). 3 
What is interesting, though, is precisely that while this distinction is not 
produced, another one is, the opposition between industry and laziness. 

Saint- Simon's larger concept of production encompasses all those who 
are not idle. In the language of Desroche, Saint-Simon's second stage 
establishes a conjunction between homo sapiens, represented by the sci- 
entist, and homo faber, represented by the industrialist. Saint-Simon's 
interests here are evident in the actual projects he promoted during his 
lifetime. He was enthusiastic about the development of the railroads and 
the building of canals. He even participated in a project attempting to 
build a canal linking Madrid to the ocean! Saint-Simon was also impressed 
by America, where he had been a soldier under Washington and Lafayette. 
He saw the United States as a prefiguration of industrialist society; it was 
a land of workers and producers. Saint-Simon's disciples were influential 
in the building of Suez Canal. The period as a whole had a special interest 
in communication, in physical communication by all means. While the 
image of the island, an island protected by the ocean from exterior inter- 
ferences, was so important for the Renaissance Utopias, for Saint-Simon's 
time the globe was the place for the Utopia. Today we respond to this 
glorification of industry with more mistrust and doubt. Saint-Simon's 
period, though, spoke of the glory of human being as producer. (Note that 
the emphasis was not on human being as consumer.) Perhaps the time 



shared the very old idea of completing creation, of completing the world 
in this case by the mobilization of the working nation against the idle. 
Saint-Simon and his followers did succeed in establishing a conjunction 
between scientists, bankers, and industrialists at the beginning of industry 
in France. 

In Saint-Simon's view, the Utopia substitutes industrial power for an 
ecclesiastical feudalism. We find in Saint-Simon a certain denial of religion 
that is in a sense similar to Marx's. The common idea is that religion is a 
kind of surplus. It is interesting to speculate whether the more contem- 
porary emphasis on play might charfge this perspective. Perhaps because 
we are fed up with industry, a Utopia is said to be more Utopian if based 
on the idea of play rather than on the idea of industry. It may be that a 
concept of religion linked to play could make sense now, whereas for Saint- 
Simon religion was on the side of idleness and laziness. 

Since I am also interested in the semantics of Saint-Simon's Utopia, I 
should point out that while he spoke of a dream in the first stage, he 
presents the second stage in the form of a parable, what he calls the 
industrial parable. He says, let us suppose that France loses the fifty best 
physicists, chemists, poets, bankers, carpenters, and so on down a long 
list. The result he suggests, is that the nation would become a soulless 
body. Let us suppose on the other hand, he continues, that France loses 
its princes, dukes and duchesses, councillors of state, chief magistrates, its 
cardinals, bishops, and so on. In this case, he concludes, "This mischance 
would certainly distress the French, because they are kind-hearted, . . . 
[b]ut this loss . . . would only grieve them for purely sentimental reasons 
and would result in no political evil for the State" (73) / The idle class can 
be suppressed, but the industrial class cannot. This hypothesis of Saint- 
Simon's is both attractive and frightening, because the poetic function 
must be reintroduced somewhere. As we shall see, it is the third stage of 
Saint-Simon's Utopia which recovers the poetic function. 

Another interesting aspect of the development of this Utopia that conjoins 
administration by the learned, by scientists, with the activity of the indus- 
trialists is that it makes the present state of the society appear to be upside 
down. "These suppositions," says Saint-Simon, "show that society is a 
world which is upside down" (Saint-Simon, 74). I was surprised to see 
that Saint-Simon, like Marx, had the idea of a countersociety which would 
be society right side up. It seems that the image was a common one. Engels 
remarks that this notion of reversal or inversion was in fact already used 



by Hegel. Hegel said that when reason governs the world — and this for 
Hegel is the task of philosophy — then the world properly stands on its 
head. Engels quotes Hegel's Philosophy of History: " 'Since the sun had 
been in the firmament, and the planets circled around him, the sight had 
never been seen of man standing upon its head — i.e., on the Idea — and 
building reality after this image' " (Engels, 69 «.). Humanity is supposed 
to stand on its head according to the idea. The reign of the idea is humanity 
standing on its head instead of on its feet. Marx could make a joke of that 
and say that his own argument was that humanity should walk on its feet 
and not on its head. Hegel's stance is intelligible, though, in the sense that 
because the idea or Begriff is now said to govern reality, then people do 
walk with their^head instead of with their feet. We would lose sight of 
Saint-Simon's effort, though, by suggesting that he simply reverses this 

In the second stage of Saint-Simon's Utopia, the goal is still the good of 
the people. Industry is not undertaken for the sake of power, for the Utopia 
denies the value of power as an end in itself. Instead, industry is supposed 
to serve all classes of society. The parasitic class of society is not the 
industrialists but the idle. Saint-Simon has complete confidence that the 
linkage of industry with scientism is for "the improvement of the moral 
and physical condition of the most numerous class," that is, the poor (Saint- 
Simon, roo). In his short summary of Saint-Simon, Engels gives Saint- 
Simon credit precisely for having spoken of a government — or, we might 
say, an antigovernment — that exists for the sake of "the class that is the 
most numerous and the poorest" (Engels, 75). As we can see, the word 
"class" has a meaning distinct from its usage in orthodox Marxism. Dif- 
ferentiation between the class of the scientist and the class of the poor is 
only a logical division, a subdivision; it is not the concept of class that 
exists in relation to capital and work. Marxists would say that the opposition 
between capital and work was not yet formed, but the Utopian claim is that 
the historical rise of the Marxist concept of class does not necessarily 
eliminate the possible perpetuation of this different notion of class. The 
Utopian notion looks to some future society governed, for instance, by a 
middle class. Saint-Simon sees no contradiction between the interests of 
the industrialists and the needs of the poorest. On the contrary, he thinks 
that only this conjunction will improve society and so make revolution 

This is an important component of Saint-Simon's thought; he believes 



that revolution occurs because of bad government. Because revolution is 
the punishment for the stupidity of government, it would be unnecessary 
if the leaders of industrial and scientific progress had power. Saint-Simon 
had a strong distaste for revolution ; in his memoirs he writes of his aversion 
for destruction. This is not far from what Hegel says about terror in the 
sixth chapter of the Phenomenology of the Spirit. It seems that the problem 
of terror was very important for this generation, perhaps as for the Span- 
iards now, who do not want at any cost to repeat their civil war. The 
Europe of Hegel and Saint- Simon had a deep disgust with terror, since the 
best political heads had been cut off. 

It is also part of Saint-Simon's Utopia to say that a certain isomorphism 
exists between scientists and industrialists. Ideas originate with the scien- 
tists, and the bankers — whom Saint Simon views as the general industri- 
alists — circulate the ideas through their circulation of money. There is a 
Utopia of universal circulation. Industry is to be improved through ideas. 
Utopias are always in search of the universal class. While Hegel thought 
that the bureaucracy would be the universal class, for Saint-Simon at this 
point it was the conjunction of scientists and industrialists. 

The third stage of Saint-Simon's Utopian project is interesting because 
it is repesented by a new Christianity. The title of the book Saint-Simon 
wrote to set forth this stage was exactly Nouveau Christianisme (New 
Christianity). Here Saint-Simon develops not only the religious overtones 
already present in the two first stages but adds something new. When I 
speak of religious overtones, I mean that what is retained from the traditions 
of organized religion is the necessity of an institutionalized administration 
of salvation. People need to administrate salvation, and this is the job of 
the industrialists and the scientists. Another religious overtone in Saint- 
Simon's notion of the emancipation of humankind, which provides science 
and industry with an eschatological goal. 

The decisive step in the third stage is the introduction of artists into the 
forefront of the framework. Some industrialists became afraid of Saint- 
Simon's project when they saw it was leading them toward a kind of state 
capitalism, or at least not to a free enterprise system. Saint- Simon became 
despondent over the lack of support for his ideas and even reached the 
point where he shot himself. (The bullets grazed his skull and caused the 
loss of one eye.) He finally discovered the importance of the artists, though, 
and decided that because of their power of intuition they had to assume a 
leadership role in society. Saint-Simon's hierarchy, then, was first the 



artists, then the scientists, and finally the industrialists. As he recounts 
(and as ever, the form is confident, declarative sentences) : 

"I had addressed myself first to the industrialists. I had engaged them to take the 
head of endeavors necessary for establishing the social organization that the present 
state of enlightenment requires. 

New meditations have proved to me that the order in which classes must march 
is: the artists first fen tetej, then the scientists, and the industrialists only after 
these two first classes." 5 

Why do artists take the lead? Because they bring with them the power of 
imagination. Saint-Simon expects that the artists will solve the problems 
of motivation and efficiency, which are obviously lacking in a Utopia com- 
posed of merely scientists and industrialists. What is missing, says Saint- 
Simon, is a general passion. 

It is striking that both Saint-Simon and Fourier emphasize the role of 
the passions. As we shall see, Fourier grafts his entire Utopia onto a search 
about passions; he returns to an old reflection that is present in Hobbes 
and even in Hume, the notion that a social order is built on passions more 
than on mere ideas. Saint-Simon writes of his own view: " 'artists, men of 
imagination, will open the march. They will proclaim the future of the 
human species. . . . [I]n a word, they will develop the poetic part of the 
new system. . . . Let the artists bring about earthly paradise in the future 
. . . and then this system will constitute itself quickly' " (quoted in Des- 
roche, 72; emphasis added). Present is the idea of a shortcut in time; if 
there is suddenly this kind of fire, this explosion of emotion created by the 
artists, then what I have called the chain reaction will occur. The artists 
will open the way and develop "the poetic part of the new system." 

It is at this point that Saint-Simon's ambiguous relation to religion comes 
to a point of rupture. On the one hand Saint-Simon preserves his strong 
antipathy for all kinds of clergy, but on the other hand he expresses a 
nostalgia for early Christianity. Saint-Simon thought that the Utopia he 
intended had actually been realized in the early church. The church of 
Jerusalem was the model because it had the gift of the holy spirit. For 
Saint-Simon the artist represented the holy spirit of the Utopia. Saint- 
Simon was in search of an equivalent to or substitute for religion, in which 
the cults and the dogmatic elements would be superseded by what he 
called the spiritual or ethical element. This, to him, was the kernel of early 
Christianity. Saint-Simon's view was common to his time, at least among 
dissident personalities and groups; Strauss in Germany is another example. 



Christianity was first merely an ethics, and only later did it become a cult, 
a form of organized worship, and a dogmatic system. Christianity was first 
the enthusiasm of its founders and had only an ethical purpose. The 
paradox is that no one can invent a religion, and this is always a problem 
for Utopia. Saint-Simon had to imagine a new clergy, one reduced to 
didactic tasks in order that it not become once more the idle, eating the 
bread of the people. The clergy would be reduced to teaching the new 
doctrine ; they would be functionaries of the system but not the center of 
gravity. They would be merely propagandists of the truth. At the top of 
the Utopia is the triumvirate of artists, scientists, and industrialists; as the 
true creators of values they reign above the administrators. In Desroche's 
schema, as we have seen, he describes the movement from homo sapiens — 
the scientist — to homo faber — the industrialists. The artist, he adds, has 
the role of homo ludens, a term Desroche borrows from Huizinga. The 
artists introduce an element of play absent in the idea of industry. Nothing 
is more serious than industry, as everyone knows. The new Christianity 
provides the room for festivity — for play and also organized festivity. 

Here we reach the moment where the Utopia becomes a kind of frozen 
fantasy. This is the problem Ruyer addresses in his book, L'Utopie et les 
Utopies. All Utopias start with creative activity but end with a frozen picture 
of the last stage (70 ff.). As I shall discuss at greater length in the next 
lecture, it may be that the specific disease of Utopia is its perpetual shift 
from fiction to picture. The Utopia ends up by giving a picture of the fiction 
through models. Saint-Simon, for example, proposed that there be three 
houses of parliament, and he diagramed the hierarchy of their rule. One 
chamber would be the house of invention, another the house of reflection 
or review, and the third the house of realization or execution. Each house 
was composed of specific numbers of specific groups. The house of inven- 
tion, for example, had three hundred members: two hundred engineers, 
fifty poets or other literary inventors, twenty-five painters, fifteen sculptors 
or architects, and ten musicians. This accuracy and this obsessive relation 
to special configurations and symmetries is a common trait of written 
Utopias. The Utopia becomes a picture; time has stopped. The Utopia has 
not started but rather has stopped before starting. Everything must comply 
with the model; there is no history after the institution of the model. 

If we try to go beyond this sense of Utopia as picture, we face the critical 
problem raised by the very idea of a new Christianity: how to give flesh 
and blood to a rationalist skeleton. This requires that we ascribe not only 



a will to the system but a motive — a motive, motion, and emotions. To 
have motive and motion the Utopia must have emotions. The question, 
then, is the incantation of the Utopia, how the word of the writer may 
become the incantation that replaces the historical forces which Marxism 
will put precisely in the place of a new Christianity. At issue is the need 
for a political aesthetics, where the artistic imagination will be a motivating 
force politically. 

What interests me here in relation to Mannheim's analysis is that when 
a rationalist Utopia is developed to this stage, it finally reinstates the chi- 
Iiastic element of Utopia, what Mannheim always considered the germinal 
cell of Utopia. It is not by chance that a certain messianic vocabulary always 
comes with this {actor. Christianity is dead as a dogmatic body but must 
be resuscitated as a general passion. Saint-Simon even speaks of an ecu- 
menical passion generated by people of imagination. 

"I work to the formation of a free society whose goal would be to propagate the 
development of principles which must serve as the basis of a new system. The 
founders will be the artists, who will employ their talents to impassionate the 
general society for the improvement of the fate of mankind." (quoted in Descroche, 

We have here the role of the social imagination. To impassionate society 
is to move and motivate it. " 'This enterprise,' " Saint-Simon observes, 
" 'is of the same nature as the foundation of Christianity' " (Ibid.). 

We must also note that Saint-Simon affirms the chiliastic Utopia in yet 
another way : the logic of action is denied . In his characteristically emphatic 
tone Saint Simon declares: " 'The true doctrine of Christianity, that is, 
the most general doctrine which can be deduced from the fundamental 
principle of divine morals, will be produced, and immediately the differ- 
ences which exist between religious opinions will disappear' " (quoted in 
Desroche, 77). Present is the magic of the word, a shortcut between the 
outburst of passion and the revelation of truth. The logic of action takes 
time, and it requires us to choose between incompatible goals and to 
recognize that any means we choose brings with it some unexpected and 
surely unwanted evils. In Utopia, however, everything is compatible with 
everything else. There is no conflict between goals. All goals are compat- 
ible; none has any opposing counterpart. Thus, Utopia represents the 
dissolution of obstacles. This magic of thought is the pathological side of 
Utopia and another part of the structure of imagination. 



On the basis of this presentation of Saint-Simon, I would like to raise 
several points. We should consider first the implications of promoting a 
Utopia of knowledge, of science. There seem to be two different ways of 
interpreting this Utopia. On the one hand it can be interpreted as a religion 
of productivity and technocracy and therefore the foundation for a bureau- 
cratic society, even a bureaucratic socialism. On the other hand this Utopia 
can be viewed as endorsing a more cooperative ideology (an idea developed 
by the branch of Saint-Simonianism led by Enfantin). This Utopia encom- 
passes, then, both the myth of industrialism, the myth of work and pro- 
ductivity that we have now more 'or less unmasked, and also the idea of 
the convergence of forces beyond their present antagonism, the idea that 
antagonism is not fundamental and that instead a certain unanimity of all 
those who work is possible. 

Saint-Simon's orientation raises, second, the idea of the end of the state. 
This notion may be a more popular one; it is still a Utopia for some today. 
Saint-Simon expresses this idea by predicting that the rule of government 
over the people will be replaced by the administration of things. The 
relation of submission between the ruled and the rulers will be replaced by 
rational administration. In his commentary on Saint-Simon, Engels notes 
this antigovernment component and speaks of it with some irony, saying 
that it is something about which there had recently "been so much noise," 
a reference to the influence of Bakunin (75—76). This question of the 
abolition of the state also returns in Lenin. Lenin tries to place in a certain 
order of succession the time when it is necessary to reinforce the state in 
order to destroy the enemies of socialism — this is the period of the dicta- 
torship of the proletariat — and the time when the state will fade and 
disappear. The notion of the disappearance of the state owes much to 
Saint-Simon's ideas; it is channeled through Bakunin 's program and re- 
mains part of the Utopian horizon of orthodox Marxism. The rationalistic 
emphasis of Saint-Simon's Utopia leads to an apology for industry, which 
is not so attractive, but also to the dream of the end of the state. The 
political body as a body of decision-making is to be replaced by the reign 
of intelligence and, finally, of reason. 

Another point I would like to raise, again well identified by Engels, 
concerns the role of genius in the Utopian situation that Saint-Simon 
describes. To put the issue in less dramatic terms, it is the question of the 
role of the political teacher or the political educator, the latter a term I 
myself have used elsewhere. 6 The idea is that politics is not only the 



practical task of professional politicians but involves a kind of intellectual 
midwifery, something Socrates foresaw. It is the the problem of the phi- 
losopher-king, which is quite a different type than Weber's charismatic 
leader. This person is neither the religious prophet nor the savior but really 
the edifcator, the political educator. Saint-Simon considered himself one 
such creative mind, someone who starts what I have called the chain 
reaction. Linked to this issue is the attempt to invent religion. Can we say 
that this aspiration is a real possibility, or is not religion always the result 
of long traditions? Is someone able to say that he or she founds a religion? 

Finally, Saint-Simon's Utopia must confront the crucial charge posed by 
Engels: its underestimation of the real forces of history (71) and, conse- 
quently, its overeistimation of the power of persuasion by discussion. This 
is the same difficulty that I have with Habermas, namely, the assertion 
that finally the extension of discussion will be enough to change things. 
Saint-Simon thinks that the violent state may be dissolved by the poets; 
poetry may dissolve politics. This is perhaps the ultimate residue of his 
Utopia. The conjunction between technocrats and poets may be the most 
striking aspect of Saint-Simon's project. The Utopia does without revolu- 
tionaries but conjoins technocrats and passionate minds. We should note 
that this discussion of the role of passion in Utopia is a partial presentation 
that makes its most complete sense only in conjunction with Fourier. In 
Fourier the element of passion will be both the starting point and the 
organizing center. I wonder whether Bacon also faced this problem of how 
to move and animate the social body when the starting point is a blueprint 
for society that lacks emotional support. 

Our discussion of Saint-Simon's Utopia brings us back to my basic 
hypothesis that what is at stake in ideology and in Utopia is power. It is 
here that ideology and Utopia intersect. If, according to my analysis, 
ideology is the surplus-value added to the lack of belief in authority, Utopia 
is what unmasks this surplus-value. All Utopias finally come to grips with 
the problem of authority. They try to show ways people may be governed 
other than by the state, because each state is the heir of some other state. 
I have always been amazed by the fact that power does not have much of 
a history; it is very repetitious. One power imitates another. Alexander 
tried to imitate the oriental despots, the Roman caesars tried to imitate 
Alexander, others tried to imitate Rome, and so on throughout history. 
Power repeats power. Utopia, on the other hand, attempts to replace 
power. Take, for example, the problem of sexuality. Here too the Utopian 



concern is the problem of the relation of power. For Utopias sexuality is 
not so much an issue about procreation, pleasure, or the stability of insti- 
tutions as about hierarchy. The hierarchical element is typical of the worst 
Western traditions since perhaps the Neolithic age. The continual problem 
is how to end the relation of subordination, the hierarchy between rulers 
and ruled, by replacing it. The attempt is to find alternatives that work 
through cooperation and egalitarian relationships. This question extends 
to all kinds of our relations, from sexuality to money, property, the state, 
and even religion. Religion is revealed as such an issue when we consider 
that the only religions we know have institutions that rule religious expe- 
rience through a structure and therefore a certain hierarchy. The deinsti- 
tutionalization of the main human relationships is finally, I think, the 
kernel of all Utopias. Our question of Saint-Simon is whether this can be 
accomplished through the lead of scientists, industrialists, and artists. 

We should also ask whether Utopias deinstitutionalize relationships in 
order to leave them deinstitutionalized or in order to reinstitutionalize 
them in a supposedly more humane way. One of the ambiguities of Utopia 
is that there are in fact two different ways to solve the problem of power. 
On the one hand the argument may be that we should do away with rulers 
all together. On the other hand the argument may be instead that we should 
institute a more rational power. The latter may lead to a compulsory 
system, the hypothesis being that since we have government by the best, 
by the wisest, we must therefore comply with their rule. The result is a 
tyranny by those who know the best. The idea of a moral or ethical power 
is very tempting. Thus, the Utopia has two alternatives: to be ruled by 
good rulers — either ascetic or ethical — or to be ruled by no rulers. All 
Utopias oscillate between these two poles. 

What particularly interests me in the notion of Utopia is that it is an 
imaginative variation on power. It is true that specific Utopias make an 
effort to be consistent, often to the point of being obsessively coherent and 
symmetrical. As we saw in Saint-Simon, a house of reflection is balanced 
by a house of invention, and so on. History is not this coherent, so in this 
sense the Utopia is antihistorical. Ultimately, though, it is the free variation 
of Utopias which is more intriguing than their claim to consistency or their 
neurotic claim to noncontradiction. The result of reading a Utopia is that 
it puts into question what presently exists ; it makes the actual world seem 
strange. Usually we are tempted to say that we cannot live in a way different 
from the way we presently do. The Utopia, though, introduces a sense of 



doubt that shatters the obvious. It works like the epoche in Husserl, when 
he speaks in Ideas I of the hypothesis of the destruction of the world — a 
purely mental experiment. The epoche requires us to suspend our assump- 
tions about reality. We are asked to suppose that there is nothing like 
causality, and so on, and to see where these suppositions lead. Kant has 
this notion also; he asks what is coherent about a body that it can be 
described sometimes as red, sometimes as black and white, and so forth. 
The order which has been taken for granted suddenly appears queer and 
contingent. There is an experience of the contingency of order. This, I 
think, is the main value of Utopias. At a time when everything is blocked 
by systems which have failed but which cannot be beaten — this is my 
pessimistic appreciation of our time — Utopia is our resource. It may be an 
escape, but it is'ilso the arm of critique. It may be that particular times 
call for Utopias. I wonder whether our present period is not such a time, 
but I do not want to prophesy; that is something else. 


As we have seen, Saint-Simon's Utopia anticipates the life that we now 
know; for us, his industrialist world is no longer a Utopia. The only major 
difference between our time and Saint-Simon's Utopia is that he thought 
the industrialist world would satisfy mainly the interests of the neediest, 
which is not the case today. In contrast, Fourier's Utopia is much more 
radical. No one shows more clearly what a Utopia is than Charles Fourier, 
who was a contemporary of Saint-Simon and wrote his major work between 
1807 and 1836. Fourier is interesting because he pushes his Utopia below 
not only the level of politics but even below the level of economics to the 
root of the passions. Fourier's Utopia works at the level of the system of 
passions that rules every kind of social system. In a sense, this is the Utopia 
that should be related to Hobbes, since Hobbes was the first to elaborate 
what he called a mechanics of passions and derived his political system 
from this insight. Thus, the question Fourier poses — the problem of how 
political institutions are connected with the system of passions that under- 
lies social life — has a long history. 

Fourier's orientation to Utopia is intriguing, second, because he writes 
and lives on the borderline between the realizable and the impossible. (We 
can look to the realizability of Fourier's Utopia in terms of both his own 
continual efforts and the efforts of others, particularly in the United 
States.) Fourier lived and wrote at this turning point of the Utopia. As I 
shall discuss later in more detail, one of my general conclusions about 
Utopia is that all Utopias have the ambiguity of claiming to be realizable 
but at the same time of being works of fancy, the impossible. Between the 
presently unrealizable and the impossible in principle lies an intermediary 
margin, and this is precisely where Fourier's work may be located. 



Fourier's approach to Utopia is also significant because it combines 
freedom of conception with a rigidity of the Utopia's pictures. That a great 
quantity of new ideas is always expressed in pictures of extreme detail is 
one of the enigmas of Utopias. In Fourier this compulsion takes the form 
of an obsession with numbers, which is itself not rare among Utopian 
thinkers. He makes exhaustive lists: he knows how many passions and how 
many distinct personality types there are, and he knows how many occu- 
pational divisions there will be in the harmonious city. He describes sched- 
ules, diets, the hours for awakening, the common meal, the construction 
of buildings; everything is forecast in great detail. The problem of Utopias, 
then, is not only the margin between the unrealized and the impossible but 
also the margin between fiction, in a positive sense, and fancy, in a path- 
ological sense. The Utopian structure cheats our categorization of the 
difference between the sane and insane. It contests their clear-cut distinc- 
tion. As we shall see, it is not easy to decide which of these two traits — 
sane or insane — to apply to Fourier's Utopia itself. 

In Dominique Desanti's Les Socialistes de VUtopie, she entitles her 
chapter on Fourier "A Life in Fancy" ("Une Vie dans l'lmaginaire"). 
Fourier's works as a whole deserve this title. What is typically fanciful in 
Fourier is the use of inversion as a constant. Fourier wants to invert what 
we see in life and to say the contrary in the Utopia. The Utopia is an inverted 
image of what we see in "civilization," Fourier's pejorative term for society 
as a whole. The Utopia is an inversion of what is in fact an inverted society. 
The contrast is between life in civilization, which is bad, and life in 
harmony, Fourier's Utopian world. I was intrigued by Fourier's emphasis 
on the notion of inversion, which we have previously seen to be an appar- 
ently common concept or scheme of many thinkers in the nineteenth 
century. Hegel used this concept, Marx used it against Hegel, and the 
Utopians used it against real life. This trait must have struck Fourier's 
contemporaries very strongly, since in his short presentation on Fourier in 
"Socialism : Utopian and Scientific," Engels credits Fourier precisely with 
this dialectical power of inversion. Engels says that Fourier "uses the 
dialectical method in the same masterly way as . . . Hegel" (77), which is 
quite a statement. 

If Fourier is distinguishable from Saint-Simon, the reason does not rest 
in his views on industry. Fourier shared much of Saint-Simon's enthusiasm 
on this subject; he too was an industrialist, in the sense that his program 
for the emancipation of the passions, which is his real contribution, relies 



on a hypothesis of abundance. (This hypothesis may be why Fourier speaks 
so loudly to some present approaches.) Fourier wanted a more productive 
industrial order, and he was also concerned about the well-being of the 
poorest. On the latter point, he had some quite specific ideas : for example, 
he promoted the notion of a decent minimum income and advanced the 
notion of the right to work, an idea which has still not been accepted in 
this country. He also set forth the idea that work should be alternated, a 
proposal akin to Marx's conception of a life in which we do several things 
in the same day. The positions of work must be shifted so that no one 
becomes a robot of some task. Fourier invented a very precise way of 
accomplishing this organization of labor by combining free choice with 
compulsory rotation. All his ideas are calculated with great exactitude. 

Fourier's target, however, is not industry but civilization. He makes the 
important distinction between the necessary development of industry to 
achieve certain goals and the way of life linked to it. (Whether this sepa- 
ration can be made is a major question for us today.) Fourier's concern, to 
put it in Marxist terms, is to develop new relations of production for 
productive forms. It is on the basis of this concern that he describes the 
present horrors of civilization. Engels greatly praises Fourier's description 
here, because he sees in Fourier the critique of civilization. Engels also 
makes a most interesting remark about Fourier at this point; he says that 
Fourier is a satirist (76). I was tempted by this comment to relate irony as 
a mode of discourse and Utopia. There is an element of irony in Utopia. 
The Utopia seems to say something plausible, but it also says something 
that is crazy. By saying something crazy, it says something real. This point 
parallels my earlier comments about Utopia being on the margin between 
the realizable and the impossible and on the margin between the sane (if 
fictional) and the insane (the pathological) . Perhaps Wayne Booth should 
follow up on A Rhetoric of Irony with work on Utopia. 

When Fourier's critique shifts from industry's development to the way 
of life linked to it, this marks a radical shift in the Utopian concern itself, 
since as I said by way of introduction, Fourier digs under the layers of 
political authority and economic organization to put in question their basis 
in the passions. What Fourier brings forth is a theory of passions which is 
deduced from a cosmology that he claims is Newtonian. Already this is the 
begining of something very crazy. Both Saint-Simon and Fourier claim to 
be Newtonian; for Saint-Simon, Newtonian law is the basis for a social 
physics, and for Fourier the key idea is that of attractions. I do not know 



what Fourier understood about physics and the mechanics of heavenly 
bodies, but he fastened upon Newton's term "attraction." For Fourier the 
cosmology of attraction is the sign of a harmony that must be recovered. 

Fourier's cosmology puts attraction at the root of everything, and his 
contention is that his Utopia is in fact in conformity with nature. This links 
Fourier once again to the eighteenth century, though not to the Ency- 
clopedists but rather to their enemy, Rousseau. Fourier follows the lineage 
of Rousseau; the task is to uncover nature, which has been concealed by 
civilization. Fourier's idea is that attraction is a divine code which society 
must follow. (I shall return to the religious aspect of this thesis later.) The 
Utopia claims to be a restoration of the primitive law. Thus, it is both 
progressive and regressive. The progression is in fact a regression to the 
divine law. This world view has nothing scientific about it but is merely a 
mythical connection from astral attractions to a social code of passionate 
attraction (attraction passionnee.) Fourier's theory is a code of social at- 
traction and under this rubric he derives specific codes of incredible detail. 

This program is so ambitious as to be impossible, but its intent is what 
remains intriguing: the idea of liberating emotional potentialities which 
have been concealed, repressed, and finally reduced in number, strength, 
and variety. One of the central aspects of civilization is that there are very 
few passions, and so the problem of the Utopia is to redeploy the span of 
passions. Here Fourier's obsession with numbers makes sense. All his work 
is in a certain regard a rediscovery of possible passions which have been 
repressed. In the same way that Marx wrote on The Poverty of Philosophy 
as his response to Proudhon's The Philosophy of Poverty, Fourier is re- 
sponding to the poverty of the passions. The impoverishment of the notion 
of the passions is what he struggles against. Fourier's code of social attrac- 
tions is not a code of rule but on the contrary a code for displaying the 
entire spectrum of passions under the combinatory laws of attraction. He 
has, for example, twelve fundamental passions, and they circle around 
what he characterizes as the pivotal drive for unity, which has the same 
position as justice in the Platonic structure. This drive for unity Fourier 
calls harmonism, the passion for harmony. This passion for harmony 
integrates passions which are for the most part social passions. (The ex- 
ceptions are the five senses, which Fourier includes among the passions.) 
Three of these passions, the three distributive passions that rule social life, 
deserve special mention. The first is named the "alternate." In French it 
is the adjective papillonne, from the butterfly. This passion is the need for 



variety, whether in one's occupations or in one's relationships with various 
partners; it is the multiplication of relationships with a multiplication of 
partners. Fourier has been read here as a prophet of free love, and this was 
in fact his claim. The second distributive passion is called the composite 
passion, and it connects people's sensual and spiritual pleasures. The third 
is the cabalistic passion, which is the taste for intrigues and conspiracy and 
is the root of discussion. Again, this whole is supported by a theory of 
basic movements, orientations, and attractions. 

Fourier's project is therefore to introduce a revolution in the passions. 
Life in civilization has repressed "them and reduced their number. We 
might say that Fourier's project is an archeology of forgotten passions, 
which to a certain extent anticipates Freud's description of the id. In a 
sense, then, Fourier's work is a metapsychology of the id, if one that also 
gives a direction to politics, since the task of politics is to multiply and to 
amplify pleasures and joys. The multiplication of occupational divisions 
reflects Fourier's concern for the resurrection of the passions. There is a 
hint of this in the young Marx when he says that the humanization of 
nature and the naturalization of human being will be a resurrection of 
nature. This theme disappeared later in Marx — it was absent even by the 
time of The German Ideology — but it has returned in Marcuse and some 
modem branches of German and American naturalism. The idea is that 
nature has been enslaved, both outside ourselves and within ourselves, and 
so the salvation of nature is at once our task and our possibility. Once again 
we see that this project is not in the line of the Enlightenment but rather 
that of Rousseau. In Desroche's chapter on Fourier, he presents this 
perspective as the Edenic myth, the Edenic myth of harmony according to 
the principle of attraction. The presupposition held in common with Rous- 
seau is that the passions are virtues and that civilization is what has trans- 
formed passions into vices. The problem is to liberate the passions from 
the vices, to release the vices from moral condemnation, even from moral 
assessment, in order to recuperate the underlying passions. 

The aspect of Fourier's Utopia that I would like to focus on is its religious 
component. Discussion of this problem will raise the larger question 
whether all Utopias are not in some sense secularized religions that are also 
always supported by the claim that they found a new religion. The spiritual 
location of Utopia is between two religions, between an institutionalized 
religion in decline and a more fundamental religion that remains to be 
uncovered. The Utopian element is the argument that we may invent a 



religion based upon the remnants of the old religion, and my question is 
whether this combination of an antireligious trend and a search for a new 
religion from within the ruins of classical religion is an accidental or a 
permanent trait of Utopia. The religious component of Utopia is a strong 
factor throughout Fourier's work. 

For Fourier the religious element is significant both negatively and 
positively. Negatively, Fourier's constant target is the preaching of hell. 
(Fourier may be accurate that the preaching of hell was central to the 
Catholic church in France during his lifetime, though I do not know what 
he would say about the present day when it seems that in many denomi- 
nations this preaching has basically expired.) Fourier is so strongly against 
this preaching of^hell, because for him the notion of Eden is extremely 
important. He wants to retain the notion of Eden as a claim that we may 
return before the alleged catastrophe of the fall. His problem is to develop 
a politics that would have as its aim a return before the fall. In turn, he 
sees the preaching of hell as the symbol of a whole structure, not only of 
religion but of the whole repressive structure of civilization. When he 
describes the modern city as hell, it is a hell on earth that mirrors the hell 
which is preached. There are two hells and they are the image of one 

Fourier considers institutional religion to be fundamentally traumatizing 
because it is based on the image of God as essentially a cruel tyrant. It is 
in response to this image that Fourier calls himself an atheist. He has 
many pages where he speaks of the necessary combination of atheism and 
theism. His approach is not very dialectical, though, in the sense that it 
is a mere clash between two claims each advocated with the same strength. 
Fourier is a very religious man, and he thinks that humanity is fundamen- 
tally religious, but his religious approach is maintained through an atheistic 
attitude to God as tyrant. His atheism is the denial of this God who 
represents, to Fourier's mind, the divinization of privation. Fourier ad- 
vocates instead the divinization of delight, which for him would be Eden. 
In one satirical passage, Fourier says that paradise as described by the 
preachers must be a much sadder place than life on earth, because it offers 
only something to see — white robes — and something to hear — celestial 
music — but nothing to eat and no sexual love. 1 Paradise, he says, is not 
very interesting! In fact, paradise as it is preached is a shadow of hell. 
Fourier's characterization is an intriguing comment on the reduction, 
throughout its history, of religion's symbolism by its own institutions. 



The positive side of religion is expressed by the fact that for Fourier 
attraction is a divine code. The invocation of God is as strong as its denial. 
Fourier speaks, for example, about attraction as a compass, a " 'magic 
pointer in the hands of God by which he gets by incitations of love and 
pleasure what man gets only by violence'" (quoted in Desroche, 102). 
He says that his methodological accusation of God is an inner component 
of a "'reasoned faith'" (quoted in Desroche, 103). There is something 
very modern to this approach. I myself try to speak elsewhere about the 
necessary juxtaposition of suspicion and recollection. 2 In a sense, Fourier 
is the prophet of this difficult paradox. 

Most of Fourier's critical pages are directed against a stance he calls half 
atheist and half faith. This attack is against "the philosophers," by which 
he means not Kant or Plato but the French philosophers — Diderot, Vol- 
taire, and so on. For Fourier, "the philosophers" were only half-atheists, 
because they were deists. They did not go far enough. Voltaire, for ex- 
ample, conceives of God as a clockmaker. This mechanistic God is com- 
pletely alien for Fourier; it is an aspect of hell. Fourier's attack against 
deistic rationalism is very similar to Rousseau's. 

Similarly, religion as he knows it is itself only half-witnessing — demi- 
temoin — because it has, according to him, forgotten, concealed, and be- 
trayed the revelation of humanity's social destiny — namely, social har- 
mony. The fact that the churches do not preach social harmony is a sign 
of their betrayal. Preaching about the good passions has been replaced by 
preaching about morals. For Fourier morals exemplify the infection of 
faith by the concept of hell. God is thereby lowered, he says, to the 
industrial realm of our duties. The wise have betrayed and buried the 
memory of lost happiness. Against a religion of austerity he preaches a 
religion of pure love and imagination. The poverty of religion and the 
religion of poverty are the same. 

The religious overtone of Fourier's proclamations raises an issue about 
Utopia as a whole: to what extent is Utopia's futurism fundamentally a 
return? Fourier comments quite often that what he advocates is not a 
reform but a return, a return to the root. He has many pages on the topic 
of forgetfulness. This theme is also prevalent in Nietzsche and in others 
such as Heidegger; the idea is that we have forgotten something, and 
consequently our problem is not so much to invent as to rediscover what 
we have forgotten. In a sense all founders of philosophies, religions, and 
cultures say that they are bringing forth something that already existed. 

3 o8 


Even the Greeks, who considered themselves the civilized and their pred- 
ecessors the barbaric, had the idea that there were wise people in the past 
who knew. A certain myth about Egypt existed in Greece; the Egyptians 
represented this memory. Thus, when Plato presents new ideas, he says 
that he offers a palaios logos, an ancient logos. The new logos is always an 
ancient logos. Similarly, a common feature today of the futuristic attitude 
in Africa, from what I understand, is that it links itself to the recovery of 
a past which has been lost not only because of colonialism but through the 
process of civilization. The idea is to liberate a lost power. 

This process of return has often been coupled with the schema of inver- 
sion. The oblivion or forgetfulness was an inversion, and so we must invert 
the inversion. Theifcturn is a re-turn. As I have mentioned, this notion of 
the turn, die Kehre, is not rare in modern philosophies, Heidegger being 
a good example. When the return is simply an inversion, though, this is 
the weak aspect of this conceptualization. The return takes the form of a 
mere inversion of alleged vices into virtues, and so we have a mere replace- 
ment by the contrary. 

This reversal also has its humorous aspects. In Fourier we find a plea 
for pride, lewdness, avarice, greed, anger, and so forth. He also proffers 
some curious pages on opera; he thinks that opera should replace the 
religious cult. Fourier sees in opera a convergence of action, song, music, 
dance, pantomime, gymnastics, painting, and so on, and this for him is 
the religious meeting. It is a parable of passional harmony, a kind of 
ceremony of worship. One question we need to ask is whether Fourier's 
Utopia is simply a literal reversal, a mere turning of vices into virtues, or 
an ironic one. As Engels also remarked, the element of irony in Fourier 
cannot be downplayed. 

Fourier's ultimate expression of the religious imprint on everything is 
his advocacy of a regime of delight. I do not know whether Fourier's vision 
is feasible or instead doomed to failure, but he is the prophet of the idea 
that pleasure may be religious. Fourier's book, Le Nouveau Monde Amour- 
eux (The New Amorous World), is an exploration, a speculation on the 
combinatory possibilities of sexual love under the law of passional attrac- 
tion, and this law, we remember, is a divine code. Some may view Fourier's 
book as pornographic (and indeed it was suppressed by his disciples and 
first published only in 1967), but its religious element cannot be dismissed. 
In it Fourier combines fantasy, love, and worship. To transpose Habermas' 
expression, we might say that the problem is no longer discussion without 



boundary and constraint but fantasy and love without boundary and con- 
straint. The identification with God resides in the element of enthusiasm, 
the enthusiasm of love, what Fourier calls the " 'passion of unreason' " 
(quoted in Desroche, 145). This image of God is the opposite of the 
clockmaker God of deism. God is the enemy of uniformity, Fourier says, 
and love is the spring of this passion of unreason. 

I am particularly intrigued by Fourier's notion of passion, because what 
seems to be denied or undermined by this religion of passions, this divin- 
ization of passions, is the structure of power. This observation brings us 
back once more to my hypothesis*that ideology and Utopia converge finally 
on one fundamental problem: the opaque nature of power. In Fourier the 
problem of power is undercut by the renaissance of love, a resurrection of 
love. Fourier's Utopia does not provide a political answer but rather denies 
that politics is the ultimate question. The problem is not how to create the 
good political state but how either to exist without the state or to create a 
passion-infused state. The Utopian element is the denial of the problematic 
of work, power, and discourse — three areas all undermined by Fourier's 
problematics of passion. 

In concluding the lectures on Utopia, I would like to say a few last words 
about why I have chosen Saint-Simon and Fourier as creators of significant 
Utopias, why I have chosen to explore their more practical Utopias rather 
than other, merely literary ones. One reason for my choice lies in Mann- 
heim. I was attracted precisely by the paradox in Mannheim that what 
characterizes Utopia is not an inability to be actualized but a claim to shatter. 
The capacity of Utopia to break through the thickness of reality is what 
interested me. I did not choose to examine a Utopia like Thomas More's, 
because while his Utopia is an alternative to reality, More says clearly that 
he has no hope that it will be implemented. As a vehicle for irony, Utopia 
may provide a critical tool for undermining reality, but it is also a refuge 
against reality. In cases like these, when we cannot act, we write. The act 
of writing allows a certain flight which persists as one of the characteristics 
of literary Utopias. A second reason for my bias or preconception in choos- 
ing practical over literary Utopias is perhaps less visible. The Utopias I have 
examined parallel my other studies on fiction. Fictions are interesting not 
when they are mere dreams outside reality but when they shape a new 
reality. I was intrigued, then, by the parallelism between the polarity of 
picture and fiction and that of ideology and Utopia. In a sense all ideology 
repeats what exists by justifying it, and so it gives a picture — a distorted 


picture — of what is. Utopia, on the other hand, has the fictional power of 
redescribing life. 

I would now like to make some last remarks on the lectures as a whole. 
What makes discussion about Utopia difficult is that finally the concept has 
the same ambiguity as ideology, and for similar reasons. Because the 
concept of Utopia is a polemical tool, it belongs to the field of rhetoric. 
Rhetoric has a continuing role because not everything can be scientific. As 
Althusser himself says, most of our life in fact is ideological in that sense — 
we could say Utopian too — because this element of deviance, of taking 
distance from reality, is fundamental. In the same way that ideology op- 
erates at three levels — distortion, legitimation, and identification — Utopia 
works at three levels ^so. First, where ideology is distortion, Utopia is 
fancy — the completely unrealizable. Fancy borders on madness. It is es- 
capism and is exemplified by the flight in literature. Second, where ideology 
is legitimation, Utopia is an alternate to the present power. It can be either 
an alternate to power or an alternate form of power. All Utopias, whether 
written or realized, attempt to exert power in a way other than what exists. 
I see even the Utopias' sexual fantasies — such as Fourier's — as research not 
so much about the human instincts as about the possibilities of living 
without hierarchical structure and instead with mutuality. The concept of 
attraction is antihierarchical. At this second level Utopia's problem is always 
hierarchy, how to deal with and make sense of hierarchy. At a third level, 
just as the best function of ideology is to preserve the identity of a person 
or group, the best function of Utopia is the exploration of the possible, 
what Ruyer calls "the lateral possibilities of reality." 3 This function of 
Utopia is finally the function of the nowhere. To be here, Da-sein, I must 
also be able to be nowhere. There is a dialectic of Dasein and the nowhere. 
In "The Seventh Elegy" of the Duino Elegies Rilke says: Hiersein ist 
herrlich, to be here is glorious. We must modify this sentiment and say 
both that to be here is glorious and that to be elsewhere would be better. 

Without closing too quickly the problematics by this schema — schemas 
are very dangerous — I would say that this, polarity between ideology and 
Utopia may exemplify the two sides of imagination. One function of imag- 
ination is surely to preserve things by portraits or pictures. We maintain 
the memories of our friends and those we love by photographs. The picture 
continues the identity while the fiction says something else. Thus, it may 
be the dialectics of imagination itself which is at work here in the relation 
between picture and fiction, and in the social realm between ideology and 



Utopia. It is to recognize these larger dynamics that I have constantly 
stressed that we must dig under the surface layer, where the distortions of 
ideologies are opposed only to the fallacies of fancy. At this surface layer 
we find only an apparent dichotomy of uninteresting forces. When we dig 
down, we reach the level of power. For me the problem of power is the 
most intriguing structure of existence. We can more easily examine the 
nature of work and discourse, but power remains a kind of blind point in 
our existence. I join Hannah Arendt in my fascination with this problem. 

When we dig even further, we reach our final interest, which proceeds 
beyond the level of mutual labeling and even beyond that of power to the 
level where the imagination is constitutive. In contrast to the stage of 
distortion, where expressions are mutually exclusive, the expressions of 
the constitutive function are not exclusive. The deeper we dig under 
appearances, the closer we come to a kind of complementarity of consti- 
tutive functions. The ruling symbols of our identity derive not only from 
our present and our past but also from our expectations for the future. It 
is part of our identity that is open to surprises, to new encounters. What I 
call the identity of a community or of an individual is also a prospective 
identity. The identity is in suspense. Thus, the Utopian element is ulti- 
mately a component of identity. What we call ourselves is also what we 
expect and yet what we are not. This is the case even if we speak, with 
Geertz and others, of the structure of identity as a symbolic structure, 
because as Geertz points out, we can differentiate between "models of" 
and "models for." "Models of" look toward what is, but "models for" look 
toward what should be according to the model. 4 The model may reflect 
what is, but it may also pave the way for what is not. It is this duality of 
faces that may be constitutive of imagination itself. As I have tried to 
suggest, it is a duality reflected not only as ideology and Utopia but also, 
as we see in the arts, as picture and fiction. 

I would term my analysis of ideology and Utopia a regressive analysis of 
meaning. My claim is that this approach is not an ideal typical analysis but 
rather a genetic phenomenology in the sense proposed by Husserl in his 
Cartesian Meditations. This method allows us to reach a level of description 
without being outside the interconnections between ideology and Utopia. 
A genetic phenomenology attempts to dig under the surface of the apparent 
meaning to the more fundamental meanings. The effort is to recognize the 
claim of a concept which is at first sight merely a polemical tool. I attempt 
to make the concept more honest. 



As we close these lectures on ideology and Utopia, I want to comment 
on the status of these reflections, and consider whether they can avoid 
being ideological and Utopian themselves. This, we remember, was the 
paradox confronted by Mannheim. My own conviction is that we are always 
caught in* this oscillation between ideology and Utopia. There is no answer 
to Mannheim's paradox except to say that we must try to cure the illnesses 
of Utopia by what is wholesome in ideology — by its element of identity, 
which is once more a fundamental function of life — and try to cure the 
rigidity, the petrification, of ideologies by the Utopian element. It is too 
simple a response, though, to say that we must keep the dialectic running. 
My more ultimate answer is that we must let ourselves be drawn into the 
circle and then mujt try to make the circle a spiral. We cannot eliminate 
from a social ethics the element of risk. We wager on a certain set of values 
and then try to be consistent with them; verification is therefore a question 
of our whole life. No one can escape this. Anyone who claims to proceed 
in a value-free way will find nothing. As Mannheim himself asserted, 
anyone who has no projects or no goals has nothing to describe and no 
science to which he or she can appeal. In a certain sense my answer is 
fideist, but for me it is only an avowal of honesty to admit that. I do not 
see how we can say that our values are better than all others except that by 
risking our whole life on them we expect to achieve a better life, to see and 
to understand things better than others. 

Even with this answer, though, it still may seem that we run the danger 
of being totally captured by whatever ideology it is that orients us. As we 
recall, Mannheim responded to this problem by distinguishing between 
relativism and relationism. He argued that he was not a relativist but a 
relationist. His contention was that if we have a large enough viewpoint, 
we can see how the various ideologies reflect limited positions. Only the 
breadth of our view liberates us from the narrowness of an ideology. This, 
we noted, is a kind of Hegelian claim, because Hegel's project was exactly 
to overcome the varieties of human experience by encompassing them 
within a whole. Each part of our experience then makes sense in its place 
within the whole. We can locate a certain ideology as part of the global 
picture. This stance, however, is linked once again to the problem of the 
uninvolved onlooker, who is in fact the absolute Geist. The Absolute 
Knowledge of Hegel becomes the value-free onlooker. Mannheim advances 
the idea of the intellectual who is not involved in the struggle for power 
and who understands everything . I would rather say that we cannot remove 



ourselves from the ideological circle, but we are also not entirely condi- 
tioned by our place in the circle. We know that Mannheim's paradox exists 
only because we have the capacity for reflecting on our situation; this is 
the capacity Habermas called Selbstre flexion. People are not completely 
caught in an ideology in another sense, because a common language implies 
the existence of exchange, some neutralization of narrow prejudices. This 
process of suspicion which started several centuries ago has already changed 
us. We are more cautious about our beliefs, sometimes even to the point 
of lacking courage; we profess to be only critical and not committed. I 
would say that people are now more paralyzed than blind. We know that 
it may be our ideology that causes us to react as we do. 

In yet another sense Mannheim's paradox is not the last word, because 
when we consider the history of ideas, we recognize that the great works 
of literature and other disciplines are not merely expressions of their times. 
What makes them great is their capacity to be decontextualized and recon- 
textualized in new settings. The difference between something which is 
purely an ideology reflecting one particular time and something which 
opens outward to new times is that the latter does not merely mirror what 
presently exists. A great part of our culture is nourished by projective ideas 
which are not only expressions, or even concealed expressions, of the times 
in which they were set forth. We can read a Greektragedy precisely because 
it is not simply an expression of the Greek city. We do not care about the 
Greek city; the economy of ancient Athens is dead, but its tragedies are 
alive. They have the projective capacity to speak for readers or hearers who 
are not its contemporaries, who are not its original audience. The ability 
to address oneself beyond one's immediate audience to an unknown audi- 
ence and the ability to speak for several time periods proves that important 
ideas are not merely echoes. They are not merely reflections in the sense 
of mirroring. We should apply the same criterion to ourselves. The Utopian 
element has always displaced the ideological element. 

Any analysis that attempts to explore the nature of historical change may 
find it difficult to proceed when the possibility of an all-encompassing view 
is no longer available. In response to this difficulty, Mannheim talks of a 
criterion of appropriateness. This criterion is rather difficult to apply, but 
it may be our only alternative. For Mannheim the problem is that the 
noncongruence of ideology and Utopia must not go too far, because if it 
does it will either lag behind or move too far ahead of historical change. 
Ideology is finally a system of ideas that becomes obsolete because it cannot 



cope with present reality, while Utopias are wholesome only to the extent 
that they contribute to the interiorization of changes. The judgment of 
appropriateness is the way to solve this noncongruence problem. It is a 
concrete judgment of taste, an ability to appreciate what is fitting in a given 
situation. Instead of a pseudo-Hegelian claim to have a total view, the 
question is one of practical wisdom; we have the security of judgment 
because we appreciate what can be done in a situation. We cannot get out 
of the circle of ideology and Utopia, but the judgment of appropriateness 
may help us to understand how the circle can become a spiral. 


editor's introduction 

1. The Symbolism of Evil (1967 [i960]); Freud and Philosophy (1970 [1965]). 
Here and throughout the notes to the introduction, the volume's year of publication 
appears within parentheses, the year of first publication, where different, within 

2. History and Truth (1965 [2d ed., 1964]) ; Political and Social Essays (1976). 
The essays in both volumes generally were written in earlier parts of Ricoeur's 
career. With the exception of two articles in the latter volume (both from 1973), 
all articles date from 1967 or before. A more recent volume of Ricoeur's essays, 
Hermeneutics and the Human Sciences (1981), includes essays with social scientific 
interests — a theory of action, history as narrative, and proof in psychoanalysis — 
but only one essay, "Science and Ideology," directly addresses the questions of 
social and political theory that are the concern here. 

3. In an interview with Peter Kemp, Ricoeur acknowledges and explains his 
silence about social and political matters during the past several years. He adds, 
though, that his silence has been only with regard to practice and not to theory, 
because his articles on ideology and Utopia have continued his contribution to social 
and political theory. See Paul Ricoeur, "L'Histoire comme Recit et comme Pra- 
tique," Espirit (June N.S., 1981), 6:155-65. 

Ricoeur's articles on ideology and Utopia foreshadow the more thorough and 
systematic presentation in the lectures and include: "Science and Ideology," men- 
tioned in the previous note and originally published in French in 1974; "Can There 
Be a Scientific Concept of Ideology?" in Joseph Bien, ed., Phenomenology and the 
Social Sciences (1978), pp. 44-59 [1974-75]; L'Hermeneutique de la Secularisa- 
tion: Foi, Ideologic, U topie, " Archivio di Filosofia (1976) 46(2-3) :49~68 [trans- 
lated in very abbreviated form in "Ideology, Utopia, and Faith," The Center for 
Hermeneutical Studies (1976), 17:21-28]; and "Ideology and Utopia as Cultural 
Imagination," in Donald M. Borchert, ed., Being Human in a Technological Age 
(1979) pp. 107-26 [1976]. 

A secondary literature has recently started to appear in response to these articles. 
See John van den Hengel, "Faith and Ideology in the Philosophy of Paul Ricoeur," 



Eglise et Theologie (1983), 14:63-89; Robert Sweeney, "Value and Ideology," 
Analecta Husserliana (1983), 15 :38y-4o6; John B. Thompson, "Action, Ideology, 
and the Text," in Studies in the Theory of Ideology (1984), pp. 173-204; Tom 
Rockmore, "Ideologic Marxienne et Hermeneutique," Laval Theologique et 
Philosophique (1984), 4o(2):i6i-73. See also George A. Kendall, "Ideology: An 
Essay in Definition," Philosophy Today (1981), 25 :262-y6, especially p. 262 n. 

For an annotated chronology of Ricoeur's writings on ideology and Utopia, see 
the bibliography at the end of the present volume. 

4. For Ricoeur's response to Althusser, refer to his participation in a discussion 
of Althusser's Lenin and Philosophy, in Bulletin de la Societe Francaise de Phi- 
losophic (1968), 62(4):i6i-8i. Ricoeur's comments appear on pages 161—68. For 
Ricoeur's previous work on Habermas, see "Ethics and Culture," Political and 
Social Essays, pp. 243-70. [1973], and "Hermeneutics and the Critique of Ideol- 
ogy," Hermeneutics and; the Human Sciences, pp. 63-100 [1973]- 

5. See, e.g., Freud and Philosophy, p. 35. 

6. For Ricoeur's other work on Marx, see "Le Marx de Michel Henry," Esprit 
(1978), .2:124-39; "Ruckfrage und Reduktion der Idealitaten in Husserls 'Krisis' 
und Marx' 'Deutscher Ideologic,' " in Bernhard Waldenfels, Jan M. Broekman, 
and Ante Pazanin, eds., Phanomenologie und Marxismus, 3:207-39. 

7. The full title of the work isFreud and Philosophy: An Essay on Interpretation. 
The original French title is even more revealing, as the English title and subtitle 
are reversed : De L' Interpretation: Une Essai sur Freud. 

8. This does not mean that religious, psychological, or linguistic interests in 
Ricoeur are subsumed under a philosophic interest. Neither is it to argue that 
particular essays cannot have these other interests as their subject matters. Ricoeur 
is most fundamentally a philosopher, however, and his work has a philosophic 
orientation that cannot be reduced to religious, psychological, or linguistic 

9. Some indications of Ricoeur's social and political stances do appear, however. 
See his criticism of Althusser's response to the 1968 Soviet invasion of Czechoslo- 
vakia in lecture 8 and his comments on the American ideology in lecture 15. 

10. Paul Ricoeur, "Action, Story, and History: On Re-reading The Human 
Condition," Salmagundi (1983), 60:60. Ricoeur has many references to the im- 
portance in his work of a philosophical anthropology. See, e.g., Fallible Man 
(1965) [i960]; and The Conflict of Interpretations (1974 [1969]). See also 
lecture 9. 

1 1 . Because Ricoeur's interest in Marx and Marxism is methodological rather 
than historical, his analysis stops with The German Ideology. For Ricoeur this text 
is the foundation for all Marx's specifically Marxist works. Ricoeur wants to develop 
a model that relates ideology to reality, and this model is located in the Marx of 
The German Ideology (even though Marx generally places the two concepts in 
opposition). In contrast, Marx's Capital reflects a methodological abstraction, 
because its discussion of political economy abstracts from the roles of individual 
human agents. Certain passages in Capital — e.g., on the fetishism of commodities — 
may reflect Marx's earlier model, but more generally this work advances the model 



of classical Marxism, one that opposes ideology to science. Ricoeur maintains that 
the most complete presentation of this latter model is located in Althusser, and 
consequently he does not discuss its other Marxist variants. 

Ricoeur does express an interest in analyzing Lukacs, but this discussion is 
limited owing to time constraints and Ricoeur's attention to method instead of 
specific historical figures (see lecture 7). 

12. Ricoeur urges an interpretation of Marx that has him view human beings 
not only in their totality but as a totality. Economic categories are not the sole basis 
for human activity or human alienation. Production is not first an economic concept 
but one pertaining to human creativity in general. The role of consciousness is not 
rejected but said to be more properly understood as one part of the living individual 
and so not autonomous. The concept of alienation may have been abandoned in 
The German Ideology but only because it belonged to an idealistic vocabulary. The 
concept's nonidealistic intent can be recovered if we talk of human self-activity and 
the loss of this self-activity. To conceive of class as an ultimate cause is to fall prey 
to the terms of estrangement, because a concept like class is an abstraction objective 
only in the time of the division of labor. In support of a reading of Marx oriented 
to the role of totality, Ricoeur refers to Lukacs and Sartre, and he says that the 
influence of Engels and Lenin on Marxism obscured this perspective (lecture 4). 
Only the category of totality preserves the many dimensions of the concept of 
production ; in classical Marxism the notion is reduced to a mere economic concept. 

13. Karl Marx, The German Ideology (1970), p. 47. See lecture 5. 

14. Interestingly enough, Althusser does not presume that the march of history 
leads inevitably to the sole reign of science; on the contrary, he says it is Utopian 
to think that science will ever totally replace ideology. Ideology has a persisting 
function as a necessary illusion; it has the ability — which science does not — to help 
us make sense of our lives. Ideology is something that we could not face the 
difficulties of life without. In the lectures Ricoeur comments at some length on 
Althusser's positive assessment here of the role of ideology. See lecture 8. 

15. This criticism of Mannheim's emphasis on noncongruence may be contrasted 
with Ricoeur's comments in his introductory lecture. 

16. Ricoeur also demonstrates that Weber slights the role of claim and belief in 
some of the types of authority to which he does attend. One prime example is legal 
authority. Ricoeur asserts that legal power maintains some features of traditional 
and charismatic power, despite Weber's contention that legal authority is purely 
rational. What makes legal power a power says Ricoeur, "may be finally borrowed 
always from the two other kinds of power" (lecture 12). Belief is also a factor here, 
Ricoeur maintains, because "Acceptance is the belief on which legality lies." 

This criticism implicates Weber's analysis of ideal types. As Ricoeur points out, 
Weber's ideal types are characterized by a "prejudice toward rationality" (lecture 
n). He examines the charismatic and traditional types not on their own basis but 
in relation to the legal and bureaucratic type. Rather than being value-free, Weber's 
analysis expresses "all his expectations about the nature of rationality in society" 
(lecture 12). 

17. See note 4. 


18. See Thomas McCarthy, The Critical Theory ofjiirgen Habermas (1978), 
especially pp. 207-13. 

19. The quotation is taken from Clifford Geertz, "Ideology as a Cultural Sys- 
tem," The Interpretation of Cultures (1973), p. 208. 

20. Paul Ricoeur, "The Tasks of the Political Educator," Political and Social 
Essays, pp/271-93 [1973]. 

21. On the relation between ideology, Utopia, and religious faith, see "L'Her- 
menetique de la Secularisation" and, for an abridged translation, "Ideology, Utopia , 
and Faith." 

22. Time and Narrative, p. ix. Time and Narrative is a three-volume work. 
The first two volumes have appeared in French (1983, 1984) and English (1984, 
1985). Hereafter, all references to Time and Narrative, volumes 1 and 2, will be 
noted, respectively, by the abbreviations "TN" and "TN2." 

23. All references tpThe Rule of Metaphor will appear in the text with the 
abbreviation "RM." For a summary of Ricoeur's argument in this text, see